« Home | Daily Star-watch: How to distort a story to your o... » | David Cameron: The new king of spin. » | Guardian-watch: Practicing what you preach. » | George Michael-watch: Predictably bad tabloids. » | Power to the People: naive, half-baked and vague, ... » | Livingstone suspended: Knowing when to say sorry. » | A dangerous imbalance. » | The destruction of everything is the beginning of ... » | Prince Charles: About as much of a dissident as a ... » | Jack Straw continues to lie through his teeth over... » 

Thursday, March 02, 2006 

Lib Dems elect Campbell: The right choice?

Congratulations then to Sir Menzies Campbell, who in the end despite being behind in some of the opinion polls comfortably won the Liberal Democrat leadership election by 29,697 votes to Chris Huhne's 21,628. While inevitably the media and probably myself will now trot out the cliches about them deciding to go with a "safe" pair of hands, I really do wonder whether the membership has made the right choice.

I personally originally backed Simon Hughes, but after the Question Time debate found myself swaying between him and Chris Huhne, who like pretty much everyone else outside Westminster I had not heard of before. His passion and policies, such as the green tax he advocated almost won me over. Now with the party probably facing its biggest challenge in years, taking on a somewhat rejuevanated Tory party and a Labour party which seems obsessed with creating more new laws just for the sake of it (and Blair's legacy) I felt that either Hughes or Huhne would be the best to lead the party.

Ming Campbell has a few problems. He has been linked with the back-stabbing and whispering which led to Charles Kennedy having to step down, (although I felt that was the right decision) has been very timid on the Iraq war, despite his opposition to it, and few know of his ideas on the home policy stage. He also seems to have the support of the "Orange Book" squad, who want to turn the party into another centreist group battling with New Labour and the "New" Tories. Then of course, there's his age. Although the chances of the Lib Dems winning the next election are almost non-existent, you somehow can't imagine him as the prime minister, not that you could Charles Kennedy either. Many seem to have voted for him based on the plan that he will hold the leadership only until after the next election, when the likes of Nick Clegg are more likely to be known throughout the country. Even worse, his first few statements already sound ominous:

Sir Menzies, who got 57% of the vote, said he was ready to take risks to "modernise" the party and lead it "back to government".

In his victory speech he pledged to fight for fairness, freedom and environmental protection.

But he added: "Let me make it clear now that caution and consolidation will not do.

"Safe pair of hands yes, but ready to take risks, ready to challenge orthodoxy and ready to challenge the party too."

He added: "Our task now is this: To build a strong, effective powerful Liberal Democrat party with the objective to ensuring a greener, fairer, decentralised and democratic Britain, a Britain at peace with itself at home and admired abroad."

Words like "modernise" and "orthodoxy", especially coming from Menzies mean likely that the nonsense criticism from the likes of Geoff Hoon, who dismissed the party as a protest vote because they're "soft on crime" is having an effect. Economic matters, such as the pledge to replace council tax with a 50p surcharge on incomes over £100,000 are also likely to be thrown out the window. Hopefully when Campbell really means, especially with building a stronger party is to make sure that policies are the same in London as they are in East Fife. Saying different things to people in different constituencies will no longer do. The Liberal Democrats have a huge opportunity with both the Tories and Labour moving to the centre-right to outflank them on the left and win the votes of those fed up with Labour's increasing attacks on civil liberties, its lies over foreign policy, rendition and the blame culture which they are increasingly attaching to young people. That is without going into the disaster of the public finance initative, timid redistribution of wealth and the current reforms on both schools and hospitals. Those kind of voters find themselves increasingly disenfranchised, thanks to the first past the post system and the two main parties, as if they vote for either the Greens or Respect it's more or less wasted. The Liberal Democrats are a viable alternative, but only if they realise the opportunity they have. If Menzies Campbell doesn't, then the next general election could leave the party facing extinction.

Share |

Links to this post

Create a Link


  • This is septicisle


Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates