Sunday, 21 October 2007

The leadership race is over

At least, it is if you read some sections of the media. Nick Clegg is interviewed in The Observer and the intro states that Clegg "is almost certainly going to be elected leader of the Liberal Democrats". Such judgements are very premature. This election is decided by the party members, not by a few cheerleaders in the media and I suspect the vast majority, like me, are yet to make up their minds.

The reason for that is that while I may agree with an awful lot of what Clegg says, I also like what Chris Huhne is saying too, in his article for the Sunday Telegraph. The problem is that while there are differences in language, it is far from clear whether that represents a real difference in values or priorities.

For instance, Huhne explicitly states that social justice and fairness are one of the key differences between ourselves and the other parties. Huhne talks about empowerment, but it seems to be that he is talking about much the same problems as Huhne in terms of the effect of the centralised state on people's lives, particularly those who are most in need of help or support.

Two quotes illustrate the extent to which they are talking about the same things. I challenge anyone to decide which one comes from which candidate, without reading the respective articles in full:

"Liberalism has always been a creed that aims at individual fulfilment, freedom from a bossy, intrusive and overweening state, and in favour of all those whom David Lloyd George used to call "people of push and go".

"It's a scandal that under Labour social mobility has ground to a halt. The acid test of a liberal Britain is that people live as freely as possible without entrenched disadvantage, prejudice and needless government interference."

If you correctly identified that the first was from Huhne and the second from Clegg without having read the articles, you're either very lucky or you've taken an obsessive interest in the minutiae of the two candidates' pronouncements and probably need to get a life.

What will make up my mind over the course of the leadership election is which one I feel is best placed to articulate a vision of a liberal Britain which will attract the most people who might be sympathetic to our values. I'm not interested in trivia about whether Clegg is friends with Sam Mendes or inappropriate comparisons like that contained in The Observer that Huhne is the Lib Dems' equivalent of David Davis (er, no).

But one thing we have to bear in mind is that until ordinary members like me make up our minds, the leadership contest is far from over, despite what some in the media might think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, media wants to make big news, and do it first, already before it actually happens. But it's not Nick's fault.

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