The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Exit Poll
by Gareth Epps

I have finally cast my vote, which is Chris Huhne 1, Simon Hughes 2. The reasons?

Chris is the heavyweight of this contest. His campaign has taken off from a late start after he was persuaded to stand (unlike others who had their campaign teams organised before Charles Kennedy's departure). He has gained tremendous momentum in just a couple of weeks.

I've been impressed with the way Chris has taken on the policy debate - he has a great article in today's Guardian and has gained column inches on Iraq (the first Lib Dem to do so for quite a while). He will inspire all communities but especially those in urban areas - after all, that's where the next big forward move is for the Liberal Democrats. He knows it and will work for it. And having campaigned alongside Chris (we were in a Brent East canvass team but I've campaigned with him in Oxfordshire) I know he goes down well on the doorstep and is a team player.

(The Oxfordshire story begs repeating: in a village for a County by-election he asked about the issues, which were limited but included a struggling small shop whose owners were furious that the Tory council had scrapped rate relief for small village shops. Ten minutes later, one ripped campaign schedule but one household of prominent - and flattered -Lib Dem supporters and a great new poster site.)

Chris' entrepreneurship is illustrated by that story, but also his background. He has the hunger of many of the brightest newer MPs wrongly labelled as 'modernisers'. What he will modernise is our approach to campaigning - happy to go on the attack rather than settle for comfortable, established positions that have led us to media anonymity in the past. And his skin's thick enough to withstand the attacks of more than the motley bunch of Campbell campaign outriders who've grown ever more shrill and whose skin has thinned with Ming's lead as the campaign has gone on.

The point about entrepreneurship is personal, not political. Many have sought to paint Chris as the candidate of the Right - or to be more accurate the unfettered free-marketeers who breathe a purist form of economic Liberalism. The Times is the paper which regularly makes this false equation. Entrepreneurship and modernisation for a political party means moving its campaigns, communications and shop front into the 21st century. Chris is the only candidate who has spent time on this in the campaign and it is absolutely fundamental to future Liberal Democrat success. Crucially, he will do this with the ability to unite the party - when the debate (sadly absent in the election) on macro-economics and public services comes up, he won't tack one way or the other. Sorry Mr Murdoch.

My second preference has gone to Simon but only very reluctantly indeed: he will not set us back in the way I fear Ming will by wasting time focusing on winning over rock-solid Tories, but his presidency and London mayoral campaign hardly inspire confidence.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 10:40 am  
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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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