The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Friday, January 06, 2006
The Unity Candidate
by Steve Travis

Like Peter's posting below, this is a personal viewpoint.

Having thought long and hard about this, it is clear to me that Charles Kennedy cannot go on as leader. I can understand why he wants to - clearly, losing the party leadership, a big anchor in his life, must be an unsettling thought. But to go on without the support of some of the brightest and best of his front-bench spokesmen would be hugely damaging both to his leadership and to the party as a whole. Another problem is that for various reasons none of the main contenders seems suitable or wants to stand, given current circumstances.

The solution? "None of the above". Step forward one Jeremy John Durham (Paddy), Baron Ashdown, lately High Representative to Bosnia-Herzegovina who has just finished his tour with remarkably good timing. Paddy is popular, could hold the fort for 18 months, allow the policy review to be completed and some of the lesser lights to improve their experience and profiles (Huhne, Davy, Laws, Clegg). Indeed, being in the Lords would allow a rotation of Front Benchers to deputise for him in the Commons, where talent will out. We could then have an election in less fevered conditions and hopefully give our new leader a honeymoon period into the next election. There is of course a precedent for this, when Jo Grimond took the reins in 1976.

The King is dead; long live the King (of Bosnia-Herzegovina!).
posted by Apollo Project @ 9:44 am  
  • At 06 January, 2006 13:08, Blogger dynamite said…

    It's a comforting thought, but leading from the Lords would be *ahem* unusual, and I suspect Paddy would be very reluctant.

  • At 06 January, 2006 13:14, Blogger Apollo Project said…

    Dynamite - I suspect he would be. it gives us a USP, though.

  • At 06 January, 2006 18:33, Anonymous Paul said…

    I have to admit that I think this may be a really good idea.

    The whole leadership issue has been handled appalingly badly and the Lib Dems have managed to generate (in my opinion) a wholly unnecessary crisis.

    Going forward, I do find it worrying that too many people seem to think that a change of leader is some sort of panacea and that once Kennedy is out everything will be wonderful.

    The Tories have been labouring under this misapprension for the past eight years.

    Ashdown as leader for eighteen months, with a clear commitment to stand down in mid 2007 (if not before) would give the party a space to set a direction and identify who can best take them there.

  • At 06 January, 2006 19:32, Blogger Mark said…

    Sorry, much as I admire Paddy, it would be seen as a step to the past and he would bring much personal baggage which would be a distraction.

    Lats face it, at the time, Charles was a bit of a leap in the dark, but it didn't work out too bad did it?

  • At 06 January, 2006 22:23, Anonymous Paul said…

    It's a moot point. I've just taken a peek at the party's constitution and article 10.5 says

    "Nominations [for leader] must be of a Member of Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons"

    Which is a shame, because Ashdown is probably best placed to provide the steadying hand that the party needs right now.

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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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