Lib Dem Deputy Leadership – runners and riders. Who’s your choice?

There will be a Lib Dem deputy leadership election in the new year, following (as Caron reported earlier) Simon Hughes’s surprise appointment as Minister for Justice, replacing Lord (Tom) McNally.

The post’s full title is Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons – so the ballot is restricted to MPs. Last time round, in summer 2010 following Vince Cable resignation to take up the post of Business Secretary, it was contested by Simon and by Tim Farron. Simon beat Tim by 38 votes to 18.

The party’s standing orders were changed following the decision to enter coalition so that only an MP outside government is eligible to become deputy leader. This restricts the potential runners and riders list – which is all the more interesting given whoever’s elected pretty much automatically qualifies as a potential future leadership contender.

By my reckoning, if you exclude the MPs who are in government as either ministers or whips, or who are standing down at the next election, or who are Charles Kennedy or Mike Thornton, there are only 27 possible contenders. (Happy to be corrected on this.) Here’s that list, in some kind of order of likelihood as it seems to me…

    Very possible:

    Lorely Burt
    Nick Harvey
    Julian Huppert
    Tessa Munt

    Possible:

    Jeremy Browne
    Andrew George
    Stephen Gilbert
    Duncan Hames

    Outside chance:

    Martin Horwood
    Stephen Lloyd
    Michael Moore
    Greg Mulholland

    I’d be surprised:

    Paul Burstow
    Mike Crockart
    John Hemming
    John Leech
    John Pugh
    Alan Reid
    Bob Russell
    Adrian Sanders
    Sir Robert Smith
    Ian Swales
    John Thurso
    David Ward
    Simon Wright
    Mark Williams
    Roger Williams

Agree? Disagree? That’s what below-the-line is for…

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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55 Comments

  • James BLESSING 18th Dec '13 - 5:27pm

    Julian or Duncan

  • Of the top four, Munt-not-manure for me.

  • Zoe O'connell 18th Dec '13 - 5:28pm

    Is this going to be a member-wide ballot or restricted to MPs?

  • To clarify: I don’t think Duncan would cut it, I don’t think Julian would want it, and I don’t know Lorely well enough to say whether she’d be any good or not. Tessa would be bloody awesome and now you’ve put the idea in my head I’ll be bitterly disappointed if it’s not her. Thanks.

  • paul barker 18th Dec '13 - 5:31pm

    I would be very happy with Huppert or Munt.

  • Zoe O'connell 18th Dec '13 - 5:39pm

    MatGB – Thanks. (And I just realised that if I’d read the post properly, it says this at the top)

    I suspect, as Jennie says, Julian won’t want to be constrained by holding office right now. Of all those listed, he’d be my first choice though.

  • Simon Wright is not on the list.

    Jeremy Brown would be a hilarious appointment, but then again, given what has happened to the party over the last 3 years nothing would surprise me anyway.

  • Duncan Hames is too close to the Leader of the Party and would probably be too kind to him .

  • As Stephen notes, this is a contest to be decided by the votes of our MPs, not by the opinions of us generally,and in that context Lorely Burt, Nick Harvey, and Martin Horwood would seem the value candidates. Time will tell !

  • Given that it now seems established that it’s not a good idea to be in Government and Deputy Leader (which makes sense as sometimes you will need to make clear the Parliamentary Party view), then you could probably rule out PPS’ as well (as pay-roll). So that would include Duncan Hames, Tessa Munt, Stephen Gilbert and Lorely Burt.

    Also think you’re rather underestimating Paul Burstow- chaired the Parliamentary Party and was appointed the co-chair of the Backbench Health Committee so clearly is more keen to get back into the swing of things than other ex-Ministers.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Dec '13 - 5:58pm

    I would like to hear more about the women and from the women contenders (if they stand).

    Failing a broadly centrist or economic liberal woman then I would like Jeremy Browne (if he stands). I don’t always agree with Jeremy, but I think he is a man of conviction and puts his head about the parapet.

  • Be interesting to see whether it goes to someone on the right or the left of the party. Of course people might go for someone on the left just to balance out the leadership. There’s a feeling that the right is more in the ascendency now as left leaning members have left since 2010. However the MPs are exactly the same people who were elected in 2010 so let’s see how they go. What the system for voting?

  • John Stevens 18th Dec '13 - 6:44pm

    Tessa Munt MP surely.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th Dec '13 - 6:49pm

    If the parliamentary party has any sense, choosing from a talented pool of candidates, they will not choose another white male. Lorely would be a fantastic choice in terms of reaching out to the business community as we are trying to do at the moment. Traditionally we have been a party that supports small businesses and Lorely is absolutely the right person to hold a high office in the party.

    Munt would be equally good in a different way – she’s warm and intrinsically liberal and would be well supported by activists. Maybe not as well as Huppert would be, but Julian is so busy with everything else he does, I suspect he neither needs nor wants it.

    I wouldn’t underestimate Moore. I think the penny is dropping in some quarters that his job was actually more difficult than they realised and that he actually did it pretty well. He’s a pretty reasonable, consensual sort and he might have more of a chance than you might think.

    There is a majority non payroll vote which means that if the parliamentary party was so minded, it could choose someone who would give Nick Clegg a hard time. Whether that would be sensible is debatable. I’d certainly want someone who could be quite robust in private but who would, in public, keep people together.

  • I don’t see why someone standing down couldn’t do it, but I do think it should be someone who has the authority both with the Parliamentary Party and the membership to act as a ‘critical friend’. To me, I think Mike Moore would be good, and I wouldn’t rule out Paul Burstow either.

    But given the significance now of the job, why are we still limiting this to MPs only and not the whole membership? Even the Labour Party at least allow members a say…..

  • Lorely Burt would be a great choice. She is a dammed hard worker, no nonsense and an instinctive Liberal. That she turned one of the Tories safest seats into two LibDem wins says a great deal about her.

    If not her then Tessa. Julian would be a great President when Tim’s term is over and think it would be difficult for Nick, having been a minister.

  • I wouldn’t bet against Julian Huppert.

  • John Stevens 18th Dec '13 - 7:40pm

    It has to be Tessa Munt.

  • It has to be the Munter…

  • Morgan Inwood 18th Dec '13 - 8:07pm

    Would not be surprised if our President Tim Farron runs

    The Parliamentary Party elects the Deputy Leader. Some pretty good candidates on the list

  • Peter Lloyd 18th Dec '13 - 8:38pm

    The other thing to consider is who’s in a tough reelection fight – whilst Lorely would probably be quite good at the job, she probably needs to be throwing every spare minute at Solihull

    @Morgan I suspect Tim will stay out on account of being President – it could well be seen as a conflict of interest being both the voice of the membership and a significant parliamentary figure.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th Dec '13 - 8:53pm

    Peter, the Deputy leader gets a media profile but not much else is required. It might be beneficial to her in Solihull.

  • Either Lorely or Tessa would be great. The prospect of a man doing the job is too ghastly to contemplate with such excellent female contenders.

  • @Caron @Peter Lloyd

    As a Solihull resident Lorely is very popular here but there is no doubt the Tories will throw everything financially into winning it back, they view it as theirs almost by right. From a simple campaign finance and exposure point of view, becoming Deputy Leader would give Lorely an edge in so far as it will obviously give her much more free, national coverage before and during the campaign. Increased visibility for a popular local MP could be a great combination.

    @Paul Walter.

    Spot on, well said, quite right etc etc.

  • Paul Pettinger 18th Dec '13 - 11:05pm

    Caron, do you sense that Nick Clegg wants to keep all parts of the Party together?

    I hope Tessa Munt takes soundings.

  • Of course the whole party should have a say. Liberal democracy has yet to be realised!
    Both lorely and tessa have tough fights ahead to retain their seats and the role’s exposure might help either. my sense is that Tessa has the personality for this role, though it’s only a sense.

  • Richard Morris 18th Dec ’13 – 7:05pm
    Daily catch ups with Nick Harvey for example…

    Which one would play Thatcher and which one The Queen ?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Dec '13 - 9:56am

    Just a point of info – Stephen Gilbert has ruled himself out via Facebook.

  • Cadan ap Tomos 19th Dec '13 - 10:49am

    You’ve missed off Roger and Mark Williams too! Though I’d be surprised…

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 19th Dec '13 - 10:51am

    I can’t help feeling that the Deputy Leader role is only as influential as the person holding it and their perceived credibility with the Leader. Was Simon effective as Deputy Leader and, if he was, how was he? And what is a Deputy Leader for, apart from the obvious?

  • peter tyzack 19th Dec '13 - 11:52am

    Tessa would be brilliant.. Harvey would be dangerous.
    As regards the various re-shuffles , I had assumed that Nick was not having a series of fall-outs and spats, but simply being very wise by rotating the people around the various posts, so that come 2015 most of our MPs will have had direct experience at the top table, and some added credibility to offer in their re-election campaigns.

  • @Caron Lindsay
    “If the parliamentary party has any sense, choosing from a talented pool of candidates, they will not choose another white male. ”

    Are you suggesting that they should rule out a particular ethnicity or gender in deciding who to select?

    By all means have regular reviews to see if there is under-representation across a number of roles, and if so check that recruitment/selection procedures are fair and inclusive. But any particular job should be awarded on merit (at least that’s what I remember from various bits of diversity training). Many presumably excellent candidates have been mentioned in this thread (including by you), no doubt of different ethnicities and gender.

  • I am backing Lorely for Leader (well Deputy Leader anyway) – I already have the badge from the last Leadership contest ; )

  • Given the standing order which states that no member of the Government can be the Deputy leader of the Parliamentary Party, wouldn’t Burt & Hames be ruled out of the running as they are PPS’ and as such they count towards the government’s “payroll vote”

  • Chris Manners 19th Dec '13 - 4:45pm

    What’s the point of this ballot? Hughes was regarded as a leftwinger, but seems to have had zilch influence.
    The Tories don’t bother with a Deputy Leader because it would be disaster like Labour in 1981. Why do you bother with it?

  • Simon Banks 19th Dec '13 - 5:07pm

    Julian Huppert would be great, but like Caron, I’d rate Michael Moore higher. A listener, effective in negotiations and a powerful speaker.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Dec '13 - 8:40pm

    @david That is exactly what I am saying. Our gender balance is horrendous. We have a range of excellent people who could do the job. If there’s nothing to choose e tween them, pick the woman.

    The current system surely doesn’t select on merit. I certainly don’t think that we always get the best person for the job and am fed up of seeing good women beaten by mediocre men.

  • Either Julian Huppert or Mike Moore. Completely different ends of the spectrum but equally both would do a great job. Moore just needs to find his spark again.

  • I’m not sure that being Deputy Leader will help anyone hold their seat. It means more time in Westminster and less in the constituency. Much as I’d love to see a woman as Deputy Leader, Loreley Burt and Tessa Munt both have marginal seats with Tories a close second, and may think they need to spend the next 18 months ensuring their re-election. Of the ‘possibles’ Stephen Gilbert and Duncan Hames are also first term MPs in a close contest with Tories. Andrew George is probably a bit too independently minded, and Nick Harvey and Jeremy Brown have the disadvantage of being ex-Ministers. Julian Huppert has been impressive since he was elected, and is strong on civil liberties issues, he also has scientific knowledge which is rare amongst political leaders.

  • Nobody seems to want the position then?

  • Huppert or Burt, preferably the former.

  • I’m rather annoyed at being ‘flagged’ as ‘oldgold’. I am David White, a long-standing party member and former councillor, elected for the second time with an increased majority. Please get it right! OK?

  • Julian Huppert!

  • Lorely or Tessa please

  • shaunPnichols 23rd Dec '13 - 4:29pm

    It would be great to see another woman occupy a prominent role in the party, and hopefully, enjoy an increased media profile off the back of it too.

  • Despite my shared sentiment that it would be good to see a woman in a high profile positon, i do favour Julian. Why? A party needs a conscience, and he would provide that. Also as the general approaches we need to articulate our liberal values, to differentiate ourselves from the other ‘conservative”‘ parties

  • Malcolm Todd 27th Dec '13 - 1:14pm

    Ewen Simpson – “Pragmatism over Idealism should be our watchword.”

    Quite right. This country is already awash with parties that value principles over power. The last thing we need is another one!

  • The party has drifted too far to the right. Jeremy Browne is a conservative in all but name and hopefully will join them, We need to get the party back to where it used to be progressing as it did under Charles Kennedy. The right wing infiltration is doing serious damage across the country in council by elections.

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