Casting the net – Lib Dem Leadership Special

1:00 pm - November 16th 2007

by Aaron Murin-Heath    

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Today’s links were put together by Chris Huhne’s tie; after last night’s performance, this is the only work it can get.

LD on the QT

Last night the two rivals for the Lib Dem leadership met on BBC 1’s Question Time to duke it out in front of a live audience.

The early bouts were characterised by nicety, something our referee for the evening, David Dimbleby, had no intention of tolerating. Dimbleby quickly added some spice into the proceedings by digging up a quote Clegg made last year, accusing Huhne of opportunism. Sweet. Cue some dithering back-peddling by the Cleggster. This must have delighted Alix at THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF MORTIMER, who, earlier in the day had demanded, “a dirty, nasty, petty contest.” Hmmm. Methinks the Tories and Labour would agree.

The usual grass-roots bitterness towards the regicide of Charles Kennedy didn’t take long to surface, but Peter Black AM thinks it’s time to move on: “whoever wins will be in a position to finally jettison the baggage of Kennedy’s departure and lead in their own right.” Quite right, too. Both candidates made the usual platitudes, while discreetly wiping clean their bloodied knife.

Caron, over at Caron’s Musings, finds fault with the Cleggster’s tie. Seriously. She doesn’t even comment on the monstrosity around Huhne’s neck. I’m flabbergasted, Huhne’s bizarre choice of throat decoration would make even a harlequin vomit. Caron does have a good point, though, when she states, “I think Nick came across better – Chris was a bit ponderous and remote as he often is in a question and answer situation, where Nick came across as a real human being.” Maybe she has a point, Huhne does occasionally come across as if he’s only visiting the planet to buy milk. Jonathan Calder doesn’t agree though. He believes Huhne won on points, and, “is at least as good a communicator,” as Clegg.

Policies that curried favour among Lib Dem bloggers included Huhne’s pledge to ensure state schools enjoy parity of funding with public ones. Paul Walter (Liberal Burblings) gushes: “This commitment is absolutely right. It is also radical – astonishingly radical in fact, when you consider the spending implications.”

Liberal Polemic has an excellent write up of the clash, describing Cleggs as “frank and open”, and said Huhne was “earnest”. Liberal Polemic also refers to the programme’s Trident debate as a “spat”, pointing out that, “Chris made a bid for the anti-American vote by arguing that Trident wed us to the United States and somehow suggesting a link between this and the Iraq war – a suggestion that does not bear up to scrutiny.” Discuss.

theyorkshergob thought Huhne was the more attractive option: “Huhne impressed me, personally, far more than Clegg. He was passionate, his jokes were better, he made sense, he didn’t repeat the same soundbite three times…” Lib Dems for Chris, somewhat unsurprisingly, agreed that Huhne won, regurgitating glowing quotes from Lib Dem Voice’s Question Time thread.

Other reactions to the bout

On Liberty, Online: “I ended up coming away with the impression that Nick shaded it… [snip] That said, Chris Huhne is doing very well and certainly improved on his performance a year and a half ago.”

The Sound of Gunfire actually gives scores: “Vision – Clegg 7, Huhne 8; Detail – Clegg 8, Huhne 9; Charisma – Clegg 8, Huhne 7; Passion/forcefulness – Clegg 7, Huhne 8; Pressure – Clegg 6, Huhne 9. Totals: Clegg 36, Huhne 41… I shall therefore be voting for Chris Huhne in the leadership election.”

Charlotte Gore: “Who won? First half Chris, second half Nick. Chris was consistent throughout while Nick started fairly ho-hum and ended on a blazing finish.”

Liberal Legend II: “Despite what looks like a Huhnite plant to paint Nick as “Cameron-lite“, Nick Clegg clearly set himself apart from Cameron for the same reasons I got involved in Liberal politics.”

Wit and Wisdom: “I started the programme as a ‘Cleggie’ and that’s how I ended it.” Sounds nasty.

And finally, Mike Smithson, of PoliticalBetting.COM, askes, “Will either be as good as Vince Cable?”


anticant’s arena – Open Letter to Yankee Doodle (recommended)

Norfolk Blogger – For all those people who think political correctness only exists in the UK and is all Labour’s fault

Freemania – Power and engagement in foreign policy

Richard Corbett MEP – Depressing state of the press

Normal service will be resumed on Monday.

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About the author
Aaron Murin-Heath is an occasional contributor. He is a writer based in Newark-on-Trent and Tallinn, Estonia. He is both socially and economically liberal. Aaron blogs at
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Reader comments

So, the Liberal lads are learners. They have both noted that Cameron put on some horrible neckwear to catch attention when campaigning for party leadership. However neither of them have yet shown that they are fast enough on their feet and weighty enough in the fist to get the other parties off balance.

Come to think of it, I had the same question about Cameron until his Conference speech; and that still has the flavour of a possible one-off.

Today’s links were put together by Chris Huhne’s tie; after last night’s performance, this is the only work it can get.

Nice round-up.

It was substance versus style, Clegg looked better and yes is the LibDem answer to Cameron (wonder if Camp David are concerned about that?), but Huhne came accross as more detailed with policy although a little bit on the wonkery side I thought.

Looking forward, it’s good to see the party looking like they’re really ready to get back in the game after the long drift post Kennedy. That can only be a good thing for British politics.

I wonder who’s watching this with more interest Brown or Cameron?

4. Susan Francis

Why did you link “Norfolk Blogger”? I first came across that “ho ho ho” story somewhere else, which I don’t have time to find again right now, that makes it clear it’s a lie, as are most of those “political correctness gone mad” stories. Like E.U. straight banana stories, 99% of them are made up, either because somebody can’t be bothered to look for real news or to attack anti-oppression activists / minority groups / the E.U. or somebody else the writer has it in for; and propagated by people who can’t be bothered to check their sources.

I think they were ill-advised at best to even go down the route of such a televised debate. The Labour party’s deputy leadership panel was an even worse decision (although as they were taking up a government post to a degree you could argue that it was more in the public interest) particularly with Dimbley chairing – he may toe the BBC’s impartial line to a point but anyone but a fule can see his sympathies are not to the left.
It won’t do any good for their party as whole – it merely advertises what disunity there might be – and while you might argue that any publicity is good publicity and the LibDems are in desperate need of it it has simply opened them up for sniping from unsympathetic quarters and, in the case of politics, I would argue that much publicity is damaging in so far as it illustrates the neccessary political realities which simply serve to further alienate the ‘ordinary voter’.
Of course, maybe I’m entirely wrong, but that’s my take on it. It would have been better done on a website of specialist LibDem interest.

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