The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Week two: where do they stand now?
by Peter

Another week has gone by in the leadership contest - time to take stock once more.

Mark Oaten: last week I had Mark Oaten in fourth place - and pointed to his limited support among MPs. Since then, of course, he has had to drop out of the contest. This is a little sad, as he has ideas worth debating. But if you have not got support from your parliamentary colleagues, standing for election as leader is not sustainable. Mark probably felt that he might become our Tony Blair. My feeling is that - in the nicest possible way - he might yet become our Mandelson. All the candidates have promised him a place on the front bench - a good thing too!

Chris Huhne: Chris Huhne made quite an impression in the first week of the campaign (surprise and a well-managed will-he-won't-he manoeuvre contributed to this). He does have sufficient support from the parliamentary party to justify standing - but it comes essentially from first term MPs. He has gathered the support of a number of Lib Dem bloggers - yet this second week has been relatively low key. He has not been backed by his old European Parliament leader, Graham Watson - which would have got him a sympathetic hearing from the South West. One would not write-off Chris's chances if he got into the last two. The problem is trying to imagine him getting there. Outside his (substantial) former South East Euro seat his name recognition is not high. His slim majority and some of his old policy positions also count against him. Of course he got quite a lot of hair...

Simon Hughes: Many Lib Dems who had thought there was no way they would vote for Simon, were impressed enough by his launch to reconsider. And three extra endorsements from the parliamentary party mean that he can claim a concrete advance this week. But last weekend he was the favourite - one journalist rather unflatteringly described him as hardly able to contain his excitement at last Saturday's hustings. This weekend he is in second place. Indeed I begin to wonder whether his objective in this contest is really to win, or to make a statement on values. He has not said much on what he would use the leadership for, and done little to outline a strategy for the party. He remains the best speaker, and I think the hustings will bring out the best of him. Personally I hope he uses them to address the country rather than the party: ordinary party members often have a less rarefied view of politics than those you meet at conference. If he connects with the public at large, things might start to move for Simon.

Ming Campbell: Ming can hardly have hoped for a better week than this. His first attempt at Prime Minister's Questions was not a great success. Second time around he had done all the homework and got a good press. If he had slipped up a second time his campaign would have been in crisis. Instead he could move smoothly on to the official launch of his campaign. This was well-judged. Surrounding himself with Jo Swinson, Sarah Teather, Nick Clegg, Mike Storey and Shirley Williams he hit all the right notes, presenting an attractive vision of the future of the party. Essentially he offers Lib Dem members the chance to vote...Lib Dem. This looks like a winning formula to me - but there is a long time left in this contest. At the moment he is reinstalled as favourite.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 3:26 am  
  • At 21 January, 2006 09:33, Blogger Peter Pigeon said…

    "Indeed I begin to wonder whether his objective in this contest is really to win, or to make a statement on values."

    Reading this back it is harsher than I intended - I'm sure Simon does want to win. but I don't think he has told us why.

  • At 21 January, 2006 12:15, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That was one of the major problems with Simon's Mayoral campaign.

    It was clear that he wanted to win but he never seememd to work out why and jumped around from one disconnected idea to another.

    As a result the campaign never really had a message.

  • At 21 January, 2006 20:10, Blogger Rich said…

    Mark our Peter Mandelson! With the news that is coming out to night, (no puns indented there) I think Mark might be turning into something far worse for the Party than Mandy. What a shame.

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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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