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Monday, January 09, 2006 

Simon Hughes for leader of the Lib Dems.

While some may already be tiring or surprised at the level of interest in the Liberal Democrats spectacular political decapitation of Charles Kennedy, the real decision has just started. Who is going to be the next leader of what has become the real opposition?

Charles Kennedy himself had to go. It wasn't about his drinking at the finish. His performance since the election has been utterly woeful. It's been left to Mark Oaten and Menzies Campbell to hold up the party and appear on the television, fighting for us on civil liberties issues and over the continuing overreach of our foreign policy. It was the Lib Dems who said no to Blair and Clarke over 90 days, and the Tories who followed suit. Who then is best suited to lead the party forward?

One of the few things Blair is right on is his criticism of how the Lib Dems play different politics in different areas of the country. They flaunt their left based policies in the north, Wales, Scotland and areas with high student populations, but take on the Tories in the south. That is not the way to win over voters all over the country, and makes little sense in the long run. Menzies Campbell, while a fine man and clearly impassioned over Iraq, is far too polite and not strong enough in his denunciations. While his coined expression "false prospectus" has become one of the main criticisms of Blair's Iraq adventure, he and Charles Kennedy never hit him where it really hurt. He could pass as a fine leader to hold on until the next election, but it would better to run the battles between the different wings of the party now.

This is where Simon Hughes comes in. Popular among the activists, and also the general public, he is probably the other Lib Dem well enough known and impassioned enough to take the party further. Mark Oaten has been a more than capable home affairs spokesman, but he is from the right wing of the party, and was one of the main contributors to the so-called Orange Book of policy thinking, which would throw all the remaining differences of the party with Labour and the Tories right out the window. The last thing Britain needs is three centre-right parties. I believe that Simon Hughes would really take the battle to Blair, with a dream team of Oaten and Campbell beside him. While the toff next door can throw platitudes and imitate what he supposedly regards as the past, Hughes can really make the difference between himself and the two other parties clear. If Tory voters in the south are turned off by it, so be it. Democracy in this country is more important than that. And for Kennedy to speak of dropping the Lib Dems demand for proportional representation, what was/is he thinking? The last election showed that the public is calling out either for a real opposition or for a change from the tyrannical current voting system which means that I and millions of others were forced into voting tactically to stop the MP I really didn't want instead of voting for the candidate I did want.

It's time to be radical, and while Hughes doesn't exactly fit that description, he's the best hope the Lib Dems have.

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