Thursday, February 16, 2006

Thoughts on the Cambridge leadership hustings

I spent tonight watching the three leadership candidates at the hustings in Cambridge. This wasn't as much fun as leadership events should be, because all three candidates agreed about everything. There were some significant differences in tone though, which can be summed up by looking at what each candidate started their speech with:

Simon Hughes began with a history lesson about how the Liberal Democrats almost disapperared and fought our way back by hard work and local campaigning.

Chris Huhne began by talking about the big ideas he wanted to focus on: protecting civil liberties, sustainability, and decentralisation.

Menzies Campbell's first substantive point was that we needed more women candidates. He then spent about half his speech talking about his career and the varied experience he would bring to the job.

This just confirmed the conventional wisdom that Simon is the Focus-freaks' candidate, Chris the intellectuals' candidate, and Ming the establishment candidate with the golden CV.

One advantage of seeing all three candidates together like this was that it gave you a good idea of their relative talents. Simon Hughes is by far the most charismatic of the three, both at the rostrum and when you bump into him in the foyer. I'm still not voting for him - there is too much of a danger that a Hughes-led Party would stop being Liberal and become the Post Offices, Local Motherhood, and Community Apple Pie Party.

The other thing I noticed that surprised me is the degree to which Ming is tacking left. He devoted a large part of his speech to the need to reduce poverty, certainly more time than his relatively standard policy positions on the issue merited. In response to questions about the public services, Ming (who has the support of most of the Orange Book crowd) was careful to say how wonderful public servants are, and how good it is that Brown has spent so much money on them. Chris Huhne is less afraid to sound right-wing (althouh he actually agrees with his opponents on most policices) - particularly when he was saying that most of the new money in public services has been wasted.

All in all, nothing much unexpected, and certainly nothing that would make me reconsider my support for Chris Huhne.



  • At 10:05 am , Blogger Joe Otten said...

    Does this count as tacking left:

    I guess Chris and Ming have both seen that they need to compete for Simon's second preferences.


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