The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Flying with both wings
by Peter

Lynne Featherstone is pushing for Chris Huhne to enter the leadership race. I think this might be a good idea too, although there are some obvious arguments against a new MP with a small majority. But Lynne's reasoning shows why she is well up my list of impressive new MPs

An ambitious, successful party needs to win the national debate on economic policy.

We need to talk about not just what to do with this country's wealth but also about how to create more - to lift more people out of poverty, to improve our public services and to have the resources to protect and improve our communities and our environment.

I think I said something similar at the end of last year.

One of the themes of this leadership election according the press was going to be thesis and antithesis: "left" versus "right". But a lot of people in the party are talking in terms of synthesis. Here's David Laws

The Orange Book, which I co-wrote, was an attempt to persuade the party to value all the liberal strands - including the economic. The book was caricatured as an attempt to turn the clock back to some dry Gladstonian liberalism of the 19th century. It was never any such thing. But I accept my responsibility to show that I and my Orange Book colleagues are as committed to social liberalism, or social justice, as they are.

Here's David Howarth.

There are...important aspects the party needs to hold on to. One is that we can be both economically and socially liberal.

Here's Mark Oaten.

And this contest is not just about modernising the party. But it is about the issue of whether it is left or right, or social economic or liberal economic.

And I believe that in fact those are the wrong phrases. We need now to merge those ideas together and create a modern Liberal party for the 21st century.

(I don't want to be negative about any candidate. But one certainly has the impression that this last statement might have been drafted at 2.30am. First it is a choice and then it is not. Very confusing.

Some MPs are apparently about to support Mark Oaten because they want a contest. I wonder if there is really room for both Oaten and Huhne in this contest. One way this might happen is by some MPs nominating more than one candidate. I hope they don't: i can think of anything more likely to bring us into disrepute.)

If we are to tackle this debate properly - and fly with both wings - we probably do need an economist in the mix.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 9:19 am  
  • At 12 January, 2006 10:22, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I wouldn't have minded seeing Lynne Featherstone herself up for leadership.

  • At 12 January, 2006 10:40, Blogger Stephen Glenn said…

    I agree with you regarding Huhne Peter as someone who studied Economics and took a strong environmantal slant in those studies I think a leader strong in both these areas can give us that uniquenss and drive of who we are in the centre ground.

  • At 12 January, 2006 10:40, Blogger Tristan said…

    This idea of synthesis is exactly what I took from The Orange Book. It was part of why I joined the LibDems, we a Liberal party firstly, secondly this vision of economic sustainability and growth coupled with social justice.

    To be fair, if I was ever going to join a party, it would be the LibDems, but this, along with the general election and the parties stand on civil liberties caused me to finally get off my arse and join and get involved :)

  • At 12 January, 2006 10:40, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I dont understand Huhne's appeal. He is very bright certainly, but a low key & uninspiring speaker. He has virtually no Commons experience and Blair/Cameron would make mincemeat out of him. While he may get the Parliamentary backing his anonymous with most members, plus he was one of the plotters. I just don't see him getting very far.

  • At 12 January, 2006 10:52, Anonymous Alex said…

    The whole contest has a far more frenetic pace than in 1999. Partly this arises from the totally contrasting circumstances leading into the race. But it also reflects the power of the 24-hour media in shaping political fortunes. It's not just that Sky News broadcasts stuff continuously, but that a range of people are watching and this feeds into the print journalism and broadcasting, from which most members will make up their minds.

    That is just how things are. As an agnostic in this race, I am inclined to see who best navigates their way through the next two to three weeks of media hype. (I am reminded of James Graham's observation that for someone who is meant to be all style and no substance, Oaten's campaign launch was mysteriously unstylish...)

    Anyone who can conjure up some really positive coverage will deserve to do well, given the bias of the media against the party.

  • At 12 January, 2006 11:49, Blogger Richard said…

    Chris Huhne should definitely stand, and I'm just off to William Hill online to see what odds I can get on him winning.

    He's the candidate I've been waiting for, and I have no hesitation in hoping he'll win. Certainly, he will provide a much better debate on synthesising liberalism for the 21st century.

  • At 12 January, 2006 13:09, Blogger yolly said…

    If politics is a greasy pole, as Charles Kennedy has sadly discovered, then his obvious successor, Simon Hughes, now needs to seize that pole with a very firm grip.

    Hughes is respected in all quarters as decent, compassionate, urbane, witty, intelligent, principled and also vastly experienced.

    More to the point, for the future of the Lib Dems, he is hugely popular with the public.

    For all his personal qualities, that easy affection which people from all walks of life offer him is the most significant reason why he is the right man to lead them into a share of Government later this year.

    After half a generation of a "New Labour" experiment that has ended up looking as clueless and lacklustre as the dying and dreary Conservative administration it replaced, Britain is long overdue the freshness and vitality that has always characterised the bulk of the Liberal Democrat policy canon.

    That's why the Lib Dem membership owe it to the country to choose the man whose electability offers them the best chance of a serious role in Government that has beckoned many times but hitherto remained tantalisingly just out of reach.

    In short: cometh the hour, cometh Mr Hughes.

  • At 13 January, 2006 06:58, Blogger Richard said…


    You've posted the same thing on every Lib Dem blog. Do you really think we're going to be impressed by a cut-and-pasted stump speech for Simon!?

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"What is Liberalism?: I should say it means the acknowledgment in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can at least avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life." C-B.


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