The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Friday, January 13, 2006
Week one: where do they stand?
by Peter

Mark Oaten: Mark did quite well on Question Time, but is perhaps more enigma than charisma. His ambition is an advantage in my view - and has led him to question the party's approach to good effect in the past. But his launch statement was not the polished document one might have expected, and queries about invisible support, the secret seven, and the hired guns are telling against him. At this moment he seems to be trailing the pack. I have him at fourth preference (ie blank). but there's plenty of time.

Simon Hughes: Simon opened his campaign with great gusto - but we all know he can make a good speech. What is more, he seemed to offer an opening to an agenda less wedded to the priorities on the Lib Dem insiders, more to the public as a whole:

We now have to demonstrate that we can make the right judgments over other issues which matter to the British people: their finances; their homes; their pensions; their security.

So far, so good - and I predict that he will do well tomorrow. The Meeting the Challenge meeting is his sort of event. I've a lot of time for Simon - and I gave a lot of my time to getting him elected in 1983. Many a time I have wondered whether he was a future leader of the party. If all that was required was speeches, he would walk it. But there is more to the race than that. I'm not convinced that he will live with the pace, and in a way I have the feeling that we don't know enough about Simon. His support from the parliamentary party is pretty patchy too.

Chris Huhne - Chris has emerged with great impact this week. As he is a former journalist I imagine he will get a good press (they stick together). Lynne Featherstone has made the best case I have heard for Huhne

Chris is an economic expert - so he's the man to take the fight to Gordon Brown on the central issue that decides elections. 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 agree with that. But there are some questions about the limited time he has had in parliament - and indeed almost all of his supporters seem to be new MPs as well (Howarth, Featherstone, Horwood, etc). I think he is the candidate for technocrats, policy wonks, and people who value conventional measures of credibilty. That is me in part, and so at this moment in time he would bet my second preference.

Ming Campbell: Ming started the week as firm favourite, and ends it merely as one of the favourites. That may mot be worst place to be - there is plenty of scope for a recovery stock. Funnily enough, the man who has made the arguments that most encourage me to vote for Ming was Howarth, in an article meant to make people think again. He descirbed Ming as a gut Liberal and pointed to his statements that the party had got too fond of banning things. Well I'm a gut Liberal too (just take a look!) and I agree that we have got a bit too keen on banning things. Ming himself has come up with a couple of good soundbites:

I know liberals. I have worked with liberals. David Cameron is no liberal.

adapting the putdown of Dan Quayle (mine to worked there)

I'm more for open minds than I am for open-neck shirts.

What I am in favour of is using the tax system to maximise opportunity - not to penalise initiative or aspiration.

If Iran is going to be a big issue in the months and years to come, that strengthens Ming, in my view. He remains my first preference in the leadership battle by some margin.

Anyone else? If Nick Clegg were to enterthe contest he would, I think, do very well.

What about the competition? I don't think we should take them for granted, but I am not at all convinced that Cameron is really such a threat. Maybe more of an opportunity.

Please use the comments to let me know if I have got this all right or all wrong, and to support your candidate. But let's have a clean contest: No negative campaigning!
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 12:44 pm  
  • At 13 January, 2006 14:26, Blogger Stephen Tall said…

    I tend to agree with pretty much all of this, Peter. It's still not a leadership field which excites me especially, but the next few weeks may even change my mind on that front.

  • At 13 January, 2006 15:18, Blogger Mike Smithson said…

    Peter this is very useful and I will flag it on PB.C I was writing the other day of the Lib Dem equivalent of Conservativehome that did such a great job during the Tory contest.

    I'm like you and split between Ming, Simon and Chris. What raised the doubts with me about Ming was not what he said at PMQs but the way he just looked when he first stood up and his opening remark wishing everybody a happy New Year.

    Stlil - there are a few weeks left.

  • At 13 January, 2006 15:29, Blogger Peter Pigeon said…

    Thanks, Mike. Be my guest!

  • At 13 January, 2006 16:19, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You might also want to check this and perhaps update it.

  • At 13 January, 2006 17:03, Blogger Simon said…

    I disagree with Mike about PMQs - I liked the way Ming dealt with it. I liked the tone, and I liked the fact it mattered enough for him to be a little nervy - even after many years in politics. Passion is underrated.

    On Oaten and QT - I only saw the last fifteen minutes when he dealt with the Iran question. He was truly woeful - at best he didn't seem well briefed.

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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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