A leader with legitimacy- a crisis needs cooperation

I voted for Jo Swinson to become leader in the most recent election for party leader. I like Ed Davey, as a person and politician, as much, but felt a need for a new style or type of leader for the party was right for the Brexit period. I say this immediately because till we remove bias, objective reflection isn’t easy, or understood by many. I am not promoting Ed Davey for leader. He does not need a campaign manager now. He needs a unity with this party and our country. This is not the moment for party politics, internal especially. I have decided to write this because the Liberal Democrats need to unite around a leader with legitimacy. Jo Swinson had that, although not leader more than months. Ed Davey needs that if he is yet to lead for longer. His service to the party means he deserves that.

The Federal Board of the party has made a decision that is admirable. I support their making that. The voices of opposition are already being spoken and heard. They say this undermines the ability of the leader to lead with legitimate authority. They say that undermines the possibility of the members having a say in the party. I believe what is needed more, is capability in the efforts for our country. And what is needed most, is greater harmony in this crisis of humanity.

We have good MPs. They can elect a Deputy Leader anyway without the wider party, but can also, for leader, effectively, if there is only one contestant. We have a new President. We have an acting leadership. I am happy to leave economics often, to people like Ed, election tactics, to others like Mark, but I know what acting is. Ed Davey and Mark Pack should cease “acting”. The leader should be Ed, the President, Mark. Not forever. Not only for now. For the foreseeable future of this pandemic and perhaps for as long as they feel necessary.

I would happily vote for and support, new leadership. There are contestants worthy. But Ed Davey and Mark Pack need clarity in their roles as President and Leader. I offer this idea. Rewind, or fast forward. Call a contest. MPs all support Ed Davey, who is then leader. If the party members call for it at large, the MPs do it at once, we have a leader with legitimacy.

But is that the same as democracy? Anything with wide support, is democratic if the motive is not about the grab for power. This has not come from Ed. Or a camp follower of him. This comes from the awareness that a crisis needs cooperation. I want more of that in parties and amongst parties – from members and leaders. This is not mere practicality. It is knowing what should be and is my priority.

* Lorenzo Cherin is an actor, writer, and regular contributor to politics as a member of the Liberal Democrats. He is based in Nottingham.

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12 Comments

  • Barry Lofty 30th Mar '20 - 2:39pm

    We need to get behind Ed Davey and our other MPs and also with other like minded MPs from other parties, to achieve the best possible outcome from this present catastrophe. The time for a leadership election will be when we hopefully have some normality returned to our lives, in the meantime we must continue to hold this government to task and support it where appropriate

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 30th Mar '20 - 3:29pm

    Lorenzo, I’m afraid I disagree. The only way Ed Davey will have “legitimacy” as a leader, will be if he is elected, in a proper election with other candidates.
    If we really cannot have an election until May next year, then until then it will have to be made clear that Ed Davey and Mark Pack are merely joint acting leaders. But hopefully if the Coronavirus situation improves quickly, then Federal Board may rethink the decision, and we may have a proper election much sooner. It is likely that this would be possible in the Autumn. It may be possible in the Summer.
    Some members never accepted Vince Cable as leader, because he had been “elected” unopposed. This was rather unfair, as no other candidate seemed prepared to stand at that time. But the situation is different now. Wera Hobhouse and Layla Moran had already announced their intention to stand, and launched their campaigns, Christine Jardine and Daisy Cooper were said to be considering it. We cannot expect them all to suddenly pretend they do not want to stand after all.
    If Ed was “elected” unopposed, as you suggest, then he would never be regarded as having “legitimacy” as a leader.
    We should hold a proper election just as soon as it is possible to do so.

  • “the Liberal Democrats need to unite around a leader with legitimacy.”

    Definitely agree with the call for legitimacy in our leader.
    Not sure about the rest of it.

    Calls for unity only ever come after someone has done something they shouldn’t, IME…

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Mar '20 - 3:51pm

    Many are content with agreeing with the decision, made to put off, some though are calling for election now, others like Catherine, to have one as soon as possible.

    I do not have a strong opinion , only on this, we need to think of this crisis and the future is about things any of us can debate, but no leader can really differ on, until politics as normal, if that happens.

    Thus my hunch is, let us unite, not because, as Jennie says, someone has not done this correctly, but due to the need to unite at least within , parties, maybe , a little more, amongst, parties.

  • marcstevens 30th Mar '20 - 5:52pm

    Catherine that’s all spot on in my book. I find it amazing that there are two very talented women MPs who have put themselves forward, both social liberals untainted by the coalition, either of them would make an excellent leader. Then I am thinking of the background to this, the fact that both the former Leader and current acting one are of the same wing and am beginning to put two and two together.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Mar '20 - 6:41pm
  • We are not at war. There are many diseases which we have to deal with, and we are now faced with a new one.
    I do not want to unite behind anyone who supports the present policies of the government. I believe strongly that we start with testing, so that we know what is happening in our country. Testing is needed so that staff in hospitals, and the ambulance service can know who is infected.
    I use the word “know” not because I do not realise that the tests are not 100% reliable, but because this is the term which would normally be used although any test for any disease is not 100% reliable. I recognise that the need for testing as a priority is now being recognised but we still have the same over reliance on mathematical modelling.
    As a member of a group defined as vulnerable I am not prepared to “unite” behind people with whom I might disagree.
    I believe that if people keep a distance from others they will be much less likely to be infected. Again I say much less because we are forced to have contact with others are some time, and for people living in crowded conditions it is inevitable. However I am not prepared to “unite” behind political leaders who do not understand what they are advocating. The lesson from the infections of people who were infected after being in Downing Street is that their message is right, but they do not understand it. The other message is that they have priority access to doctors and we don’t.
    If the government had understood what they were doing the would have done better the right things at the right time.
    Finally we all look at the world differently. We all have our unique world view. I joined the Liberal Party because that seemed the best fit for me. I did not join a party which will tell me what to think.

  • Denis Loretto 31st Mar '20 - 9:46am

    As will be clear to LDV addicts from the several posts I have made in the last week or so, I completely agree with Lorenzo. I reckon there are still many within our Party and elsewhere who do not understand just how serious a situation our country and the entire world is in. The time will come when there will be every chance for any aspirant for Lib Dem leadership to submit themselves to internal party democracy. In the meantime throughout this appalling crisis hardly anyone is arguing against the reality that Ed Davey must be the front line figure for the Lib Dems. I cannot see how anyone can say that it is helpful for him to be constantly described as “Joint Interim Leader” especially as and when Keir Starmer (hopefully) gets going as the Leader of the Labour Party.

  • James Baillie 31st Mar '20 - 12:12pm

    “But is that the same as democracy? Anything with wide support, is democratic if the motive is not about the grab for power. ”

    And you propose to test the width of that support… how? Because I’m not seeing a mechanism to do so here. Declaring that wide support exists for your position without a way of determining if it’s actually the case is not known for being a common tool of democratic governance.

  • Steve Comer 31st Mar '20 - 6:56pm

    “Wide support” exists in Hungary for Viktor Orban, but Liberals in ALDE are rightly opposing the emergency powers he has brought in!

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