Wednesday, January 11, 2006

At least 5 reasons to vote for Menzies Campbell MP (by a process of elimination): No.3

This is probably one of *the* most important out of the reasons. Menzies Campbell says "that he will contest only one election" . So if you're not impressed by the current prospective line-up (Oaten, Campbell, Hughes) then vote Menzies Campbell MP and by the next leadership election the new intake of MPs like Nick Clegg MP (currently supporting Menzies) will have gained more parliamentary experience.

A note about Nick Clegg: Nick Clegg MP not only has his own hair and is VERY cute (not as if this is affecting my opinion or anything ;) ) but is a intellectual heavyweight who speaks several languages and is less than 40 years of age (if age bothers you). Last, but not least, he's an instinctive and an intellectual liberal. I agreed with his chapter in the Orange Book (the need to temper our ideological enthusiasm for Europe with an acknowledgement that it needs reform) and it's possible to get some idea what he believes from reading his numerous articles in the Guardian (although most are about Europe. Good non-European articles are here, here and here)

A note about Chris Huhne: Chris Huhne MP is also an ex-MEP who was elected in May and it is rumoured that he might be going to stand this time around on a platform strongly focused on environmental issues. He's older than Nick Clegg MP (about 51/52) and has his own hair. He is an intellectual heavyweight with economic experience and he wrote the foreign policy section in the Orange Book (I don't remember if I disagreed with his chapter but I didn't write any rude remarks in the margin so it's probably a good sign). I'm not sure how I'll vote if Chris Huhne MP stands. He has the disadvantage of a lack of experience, his seat is a bit vulnerable, I don't know *that* much about his views and I'm unsure of his chances of winning. I guess it's a 'watch this space' thing.

A note about the Orange Book: The problem with the Orange Book was *not* that it was extreme and right-wing. The problem with the Orange Book was that they didn't print sufficient copies. The result was the number of people who were able to read it and talk about what it DID say fell far short of the number of people who felt able to talk about it without actually having read it. I have a copy and apart from the introduction (which appears designed to create a controversy - doubtless intentional since controversy sells books) and David Laws' other chapter on the NHS, the rest of the book is pretty common sense to any Lib Dem who believes there's any role for markets at all (which I would hope would be all of the party). Even David Laws' infamous NHS chapter starts from a value set which most of the party would find entirely acceptable - it's the conclusions that are debatable.

Authorship of the Orange Book is a compliment. It suggests that someone is able to think about what the Lib Dems stand for, generate some new ideas and communicate them coherently in writing (in short, an intellectual heavyweight). Provided they are also accessible, verbally articulate and not a charisma-free area then this gives them ideal leadership qualities.

Intellectual rigor is especially important in the leader of the Lib Dems since if the Tories public perception problem was being 'nasty' (recall the Rory Bremmer Michael Howard sketches "It's alright, you can come closer. Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you") then ours is being seen as a group of sandal-wearing bearded pom-poms* who are united by our opposition to post office closure, the other parties... and not much else. In short, the negative side of our public image is that we wouldn't know one end of an economic policy/coherent ideology/Tribble from the other. Since most members of the public only recognise the leader of a smaller party then it's useful to have someone who appears intellectually 'weighty' in that role.

*A note about Tribbles: *I was looking for something furry and initially thought up 'tribbles' but realised Tribbles could be pretty politically offensive if stranded in a lift with David Cameron, Tony Blair and an abundant food supply.



  • At 10:56 am , Blogger Tristan said...

    On The Orange Book:
    I actually thought the first chapter was very good. It sought, in a limited amount of space to set out what Liberalism is about in his view.
    The only possibly contentious aspect is economic liberalism, which is simply saying that we should resist socialistic state driven economics and seek to harness market economics to increase prosperity and reduce poverty, and tax cuts to boost the economy and increase tax takings. This is all well understood economic theory which has shown itself in practice, but for some people it seems nonsense.

    Indeed, F.A. Hayek espoused this as the means to increased freedom during WWII, and Keynes replied that he agreed completely. The only difference being that Keynes had a more interventionist policy for the extreme case of the great depression.

    Also, in the economic section he makes the point that the poorest should not be paying income tax. This is obvious really, its a nonsense to tax them and then pay them some of the money back through an inefficient, costly and broken tax credits system which simply goes to pay bureaucrats' salaries. I seriously hope we adopt at least this, and hopefully a simplification of the tax system (which should increase takings and reduce administration costs if done correctly)

    The conclusions of the NHS chapter are interesting, especially as they were developed from the starting point of solid liberal principles. We should consider and debate it, but I don't think that its the way we will go, but that's a democratic party for you :)


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