Après Nick: which Lib Dem MPs are best-placed to become the next Lib Dem leader?

Today’s Independent has an interesting story speculating on the Lib Dem leadership contest to come if the 2015 election result triggers Nick Clegg’s resignation. It’s one of the features of this parliament – perhaps linked to it being a fixed-term in which we know the dates are all known – that there hasn’t been nearly as much gossip about future leadership bids in any of the three main parties.

Anyway, the Indy story seeks to make up a little for that absence: Nick Clegg’s rivals for the Lib Dems leadership told to rev up. The premise of the article is logical and reasonable…

  • If the party does badly in 2015 then Nick will resign;
  • If Nick resigns then the man in pole position to take over is party president Tim Farron;
  • Tim has two in-built advantages. First, he’s not held a government post during the Coalition so is untainted by the unpopular decisions taken. And secondly, his 2010 victory over Susan Kramer to become party president means he’s already fought an all-membership election, and the role ensures he’s very well networked around the country;
  • All the other leading candidates are current members of the government and therefore restricted both in their freedom to speak out and the time to campaign beyond their own seats.
  • Tim Farron starts as odds-on favourite to become next Lib Dem leader, therefore. He knows this already, which is why he’s been wisely avoiding stoking the rumour-furnace further. In both the crucial party conference debates on the economy, he’s sided with the party leadership, notwithstanding the fact that his own economic views are unashamedly much more social liberal than Nick’s or Danny’s (and probably Vince’s too). Some will view this as loyalty, others as careful planning. Tim’s backbench freedom to speak out – and, as he would legitimately argue, his duty as president to speak for the party-at-large – means he’s regarded with some suspicion by some colleagues, especially those who’ve adhered more strictly to collective responsibility.

    There are four other possible future candidates listed by the Indy: Ed Davey, Danny Alexander, Alistair Carmichael, and Lynne Featherstone. Vince Cable doesn’t appear, presumably on the grounds that his moment will have passed, post-2015. Surprising omissions include health minister Norman Lamb, who would surely be inclined to throw his hat into the ring, and Jo Swinson, who would definitely give Tim a run for his money if she retains her marginal East Dunbartonshire seat.

    It’s 18 months since we last asked who party members would choose as next Lib Dem leader in the event of a vacancy – at the time, Vince and Tim topped the poll.

    There is one slightly bizarre coda to the article:

    The Lib Dems are bracing themselves for one more possible scandal. Jeremy Thorpe, the 1970s Liberal leader who was acquitted of conspiracy to murder in the decade’s greatest political scandal in 1979, is still alive but increasingly suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease. Upon Mr Thorpe’s death, a book that is said to expose new details of the scandal will be published, which Lib Dems fear could be tremendously damaging to the party.

    Erm, really? My guess is future revelations about the truth behind the Thorpe affair and ‘Rinkagate’ will be of interest to historians; of mild curiosity to those members of the public that remember it (you’d have to be at least 50 years old to be in that category); and of virtually no political significance whatsoever, given none of the main players are active in front-line politics (and most are dead).

    As Sean Kemp, former special adviser to Nick Clegg, tweeted:

    * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    56 Comments

    • Mason Cartwright 16th Feb '14 - 1:22pm

      Well much as I rate Tim Farron higher than Clegg, Alexander, Laws, Cable etc he has not put enough distance between himself and the mainstream of his party and this is his achilles heel.

      After the wheels have come off in 2015 the Lib Dems need to bring someone in who is completely unblemished. This will make for a very short list.

      The first actions this “unblemished soul” needs to take is:

      To get rid of as many 2010 to 2015 crowd as he can
      Completely denounce the direction the party followed for the past 5 years and set a new path
      Pledge to commit himself to undoing as much of the damage this has caused as he can and
      Sincerely ask the public to forgive the party.

      This just might give the Lib Dems some hope for 2020 but even with these actions this will be uncertain.

    • Presumably one point of this article is to demonstrate how unrealistic it would be for Nick Clegg to step down before the 2015 election.

      Mason Cartwright’s sentiments look like an import from The Guardian’s CiF. His “Completely denounce …” is jejune nonsense: he must be so disappointed that Labour did not do the same.

      I would like to know why Julian Huppert does not get a mention; he has many worthy Liberal credentials as does Jo Swinson , who I very much hope can hold on to her seat. I wish I could be more impressed with Tim Farron though.

    • Andrew Whyte 16th Feb '14 - 2:13pm

      Huppert is not keader material
      Swinson too lightweight
      Davey a disaster with post office and energy
      Norman Lamb just seems to concentrate on delivery, so a good choice IMHO

    • Mason Cartwright 16th Feb '14 - 2:15pm

      Presumably the 5 million supporters that have left since 2010 were also labelled simplistic and naive for expressing simple common sense views.

      Despite such dismissals common sense unfortunately remains common sense and more than at any time before the Lib Dems need to build this into their survival strategy.

      And yes I was disappointed that Labour did not apply a similar common sense measure but continually comparing yourself to another failed party is hardly going to help the Lib Dems recover.

    • Christine Headley 16th Feb '14 - 2:46pm

      @ Andrew Whyte – why is Jo Swinson ‘too lightweight’? She has ministerial experience – below cabinet level, but in my view that is a good thing. Is it her age? Gender? Just-had-a-baby? If none of these, please be more explicit.

    • We should be doing this NOW not next year. Lets get on with it for Gods sake, its our onyt hope and a very slender one at that.

    • Stephen Donnelly 16th Feb '14 - 4:59pm

      Quite why Norman Lamb is rated so highly rated baffles me. He has made good progress within his limited brief, but has done little to bring a Liberal voice to the chaos being caused within the NHS by Hunt and the Lansley bill. He will forever be damaged by this lack of action.

    • Stephen Hesketh 16th Feb '14 - 5:36pm

      “Ed Davey, Danny Alexander, and Alistair Carmichael ”
      None of the above thank you … unless Mr Davey can, in the meantime, show he still believes in the Green politics that caused him to join the Liberal Party in the first place.
      I do like Tim, he is very good … but I do worry about having a non-secular, quite strongly faith-influenced, leader.
      Although I am a radical, I would like Nick to stay but with a non-‘Yellow Book’ team surrounding him. He is a very good communicator and he has received a much worse press than he deserves.

    • Mason Cartwright 16th Feb '14 - 5:38pm

      If the Lib Dems want to have a fighting chance they should be thinking along the lines of Andrew George as a possible new leader.

    • Steve Griffiths 16th Feb '14 - 5:44pm

      Stephen Hesketh

      I would be happy with a Lloyd George Yellow Book team surrounding Nick; it’s the Orange bookers I can’t abide.

    • 2 things about Jo, who I have liked for many years. One is that she has focused on issues which most people would not rate as core politics / economics. Two is that when given opportunity to score heavily, she has not done so, and shown herself too much under the influence of the leadership. In addition, I see no reason why she is not really an Orange Book sympathiser, which has to rule anyone out as a candidate completely. I was hugely impressed when she first emerged on to the scene as being anti-positive discrimination, and if she were, by some chance to distance herself big time from Orange Book, she may have a chance, in my book. Duncan Hames seems OB through and through.

    • Stephen Hesketh 16th Feb '14 - 6:23pm

      @Steve Griffiths … Oops family get together … too much vino tino. I stand corrected!!!!

    • Tim Farron has other natural advantages – the wider membership know his name with lots of them getting emails from him and he appears regularly on TV.

      If the Scots vote for independence then it would be madness to elect a Scottish MP. Danny Alexander does have a high profile but I am not sure he comes across very well. The only times I have seen Alistair Carmichael he comes across as a bruiser and I hope the membership wouldn’t want a bruiser as its leader.

      Ed Davey is more of a possibility as he does get some TV coverage but I couldn’t vote for him because he broke his pledge by voting for higher tuition fees. Lynne Featherstone, Jo Swinton, and Norman Lamb all voted for higher tuition fees but I don’t think they appear much on TV.

      Simon Hughes would be at the retirement age in 2020 and so might be considered too old to be leader. He has stood before and been defeated and may have other issues that would stop him.

      I believe that the next leader must not have broken their word and voted for the tuition fee increase so I have been looking at the longshots. Firstly those who voted against the increase to tuition fee – John Leech (if re-elected will be his third term in parliament and he has been a councillor which I feel is important), Stephen Lloyd (has staying power fought his seat and lost before winning it), Adrian Sanders (also fought his seat and lost before winning it and been a councillor, he has been in Parliament since 1997), Ian Swales (also fought his seat and lost before winning it came from third to second and then won it with the biggest swing against any Labour candidate so must know something about running successful election campaigns), Mark Williams (fought his seat twice and lost before winning it, elected to Parliament in 2005 and now has over 50% of the total vote not done since 1959), Jenny Wilmott (been a councillor, elected to Parliament in 2005, resigned from the government to vote against tuition fees).

      Secondly those who didn’t vote, Lorely Burt (fought her seat and lost before winning it and been a councillor, elected in 2005, ex-Labour party member), Stephen Williams (fought his seat and lost before winning it and been a councillor [group leader], elected in 2005), Martin Horwood (elected in 2005).

      My first choice might be Jenny Wilmott with Adrian Sanders in second and someone with the surname of Williams in third. My problem is I don’t really know who are Cleggites and who are on the Social Liberal wing of the party.

    • Steve Webb.

    • Time for a woman to lead the party! If not , why not?
      The presumption that more of the same (white, male mediocrity) seems to pervade some of the comments in this thread.
      I can think of a number of our women MPs who would make a much better job of it than the failure we have had for the last six years.

    • If we continue in the “coalition” right up until polling day, with Mr Clegg as leader, unable through collective responsibility to campaign on an independent platform, how many seats will we hold? My guess is the three in the north of Scotland, possibly Brecon & Radnor, possibly two more Tory-facing seats in Scotland, and possibly Westmorland & Lonsdale. If that proves to be the case, then the chances are we get Charles Kennedy back. Will Mr Farron be so keen to lead a rump?

      If we leave the “coalition” in June, after the 22nd of May meltdown, and we bring Dr Cable in as a caretaker, there is a possibility that while we will lose most of our Labour-facing seats (some by huge margins), we will hold most of the Tory-facing seats, and possibly even gain one or two. After a decent interval, Dr Cable will step down. We then have Mr Farron up against one or more of the less implicated of the former ministers. Names like Davey, Lamb and Webb spring to mind. Lynne Featherstone might surprise us all and get back, but I think she is too independent minded to be leader. Mr Alexander and Ms Swinson are unlikely to survive, in my opinion. The big unknown in this scenario is if Labour will need us to put them in power, or will the Tories recoup enough votes from UKIP to be in a position where they have to invite us into a second coalition?

      As I say, if we don’t act in June this year, the game is up.

    • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 16th Feb '14 - 11:00pm

      I wish I knew who was briefing the media that the appointment of Graeme Littlejohn is some sort of sign that he’s preparing for the leadership. It’s caused great amusement north of the border. Graeme is a good campaigner but he’s there to concentrate on holding the Westminster seat and is based in Inverness not Westminster.

      Should there be a leadership contest, and I certainly don’t want to see one for a while yet, all I want is for the party to have a proper choice with a wide range of candidates. We haven’t really had that since 1999. I, by the way, voted for Jackie Ballard in that campaign with Malcolm Bruce as my 2nd choice.

      I certainly think that if we are in a position to be in government after 2015, the last thing we want is several months without a leader as we are trying to establish ourselves within a new coalition.

      What I think we should be doing, and not in a toadying way, is getting behind the leader we do have. We may not always agree with him, but he was given a very difficult hand to play in 2010 and he deserves some credit for the achievements he has made. He’s been criticised for agreeing to things too quickly and then rowing back when the party has kicked off – like on web snooping. How much worse would it have been if he hadn’t listened to that pressure? I also think it’s great that he submits himself to public scrutiny every week via Call Clegg, even on weeks where he must have wanted to lie in bed and pull the duvet over his head. I don’t think his courage, integrity and almost unfailing good humour get enough credit. He has done in government exactly what has been making him tick for years – he’s long been interested in mental health, in giving kids from poorer backgrounds a decent start in life. This is the sort of stuff he’s been talking about ever since I first knew him back in 1998.

      There are significant political differences between Clegg and a fair old chunk of the party. I’m a leftie inclined peace loving hippy but I find it impossible to dislike him, however much he might drive me mad from time to time. He’s led us into government for the first time in not far off a century, he’s put some identifiably Lib Dem policies front and centre of that government’s proposals despite being hampered with a parliamentary grouping that was about 1/3 of the size he should have had. We’re 20% of this government and we’re making it much more than 20% Lib Dem. A child born in 2010 will have more opportunities than a child born in 2005 if they come from a poorer background once you factor in income tax cuts, pupil premium, free school meals, better childcare. It’s not been exactly as we would have wished it – how could it be?

      It\s very easy to imagine that we would have made better decisions than he has. Have we really seriously examined the pressures he’s been under from his point of view. Whoever led this party into government was going to have to make compromises. And mistakes. We need to admire the good stuff, forgive him the bad stuff and tell people on the doorsteps that he’s a decent guy. They are prepared to listen if we do.

    • I think Nick deserves the chance to lead us into this year’s EU and local elections without further speculation: things might go better than we’re expecting. Then let’s see.

    • @ Carol Lindsay I can’t remember who posted here and said it would be bad for us to enter another coalition government after 2015 but I agree with him. We will need time (10 years maybe) to rebuild the party and reposition it where it belongs on the left of centre.

      We are liberals and we have a long tradition of not getting behind our leader but reminding them of their mistakes and Nick Clegg has more than most. His achievements are small compared to the damage he has done to the party. However I agree he does have courage and appears to have good humour. To which I would add persistence. The problem with where he has rowed back is that he shouldn’t have agreed to the policies in the first place and he hasn’t rowed back on enough of them or far enough. He has been weak in standing up to the Conservatives.

      The jury is out on whether a child born in 2010 will have more opportunities than a child born in 2005 if they come from a poorer background. One thing is certain they will not get free schools because of Nick Clegg they would have had them already and the poorest are the second and third worse effected by the changes in tax and benefits.

      He may be a decent guy but it is not enough for a party leader.

    • Many of us will not cry tears when Clegg goes! Bring on the Blue Nun!

    • @ John Innes
      “Many of us will not cry tears when Clegg goes! Bring on the Blue Nun!”

      Yes, then we can choose a really weak leader and get on with being irrelevant in opposition, not implementing any of our policies and advocate spending imaginary money that doesn’t exist. The party can go back to being a marginal protest group that occasionally wins a by-election or two.

      Oh happy days!

    • I’m utterly appalled that even party supporters (so-called) have bought in to this scapegoating,”hate Clegg” mindset.

      Nick Clegg, despite his many defects, has been a really good leader in times that have been tougher than anyone could possibly have imagined, with three quarters of the political establishment ranged against us and the worst inherited budgetary situation in living memory.

      And yet here we are, with loads of you queuing up to wish him the worst and willing our passage back to obscurity.

      You know what, it will serve you all right if we do end up keeping most of our MPs and with Clegg continuing as our leader in a coalition with Labour. Then you really will all have to eat your words.

    • Christine Wills 17th Feb '14 - 10:03am

      Amalric
      ‘The problem with where he has rowed back is that he shouldn’t have agreed to the policies in the first place and he hasn’t rowed back on enough of them or far enough. He has been weak in standing up to the Conservatives.’

      How can any of us say what the policies looked like when he first got hold of them? As for standing up to the Conservatives – I can’t imagine a single leading figure in the party being able to stand up to Cameron and Co without being batted away like an insignificant fly apart from Clegg. I truly believe we would have been in one awful mess without him there on our side.

    • “How can any of us say what the policies looked like when he first got hold of them? “

      Absolutely irrelevant, if we’re talking about policies like the NHS ‘reform’ and secret courts, which weren’t in the coalition agreement.

      It’s no excuse at all to say “Yes, Clegg has supported bad laws, but the Tories originally asked him to support worse ones”. He should simply have stuck to what had been agreed, and said no to all the other illiberal stuff.

    • Mason Cartwright 17th Feb '14 - 10:23am

      @ RC

      Definition of scapegoat – “a person who is blamed for the wrongdoing or mistakes of others”

      Nope I don’t think Nick Clegg is being scapegoated.

      Equally I don’t think that anyone here hates Nick Clegg but having thrown his weight behind a wrecking ball that has wiped out what little remains of the social fabric of the UK won’t endear him to many either.

      The Lib Dems are in a battle of survival at this point so quite a few posters here really need to wake up and smell the coffee.

    • I dont see the point of this article, all it will do is give comfort to those who wish us harm & demoralise our members. Nearly 4 years after The Special Conference overwhelmingly backed Coalition, isnt it time for the Anti-Coalition minority to shut up for a bit ?

    • Mason Cartwright 17th Feb '14 - 11:32am

      “isnt it time for the Anti-Coalition minority to shut up for a bit ?”

      Diplomatic but…….

      Does “minority” mean the 5 million lost supporters that have propelled the party to circa 9% in the opinion polls?

      When I read this I realised that some people have become so close to the problem that they can’t see the woods from the trees.

      The core of the problem isn’t coalition it’s what the Lib Dems did/are doing when in coalition.

      Equally the problem isn’t just Clegg it’s the leadership and the direction as a whole.

      With this leadership and direction I believe you would have ended up in much the same place even if the Lib Dems had governed alone.

    • So Mason Cartwright thinks Nick Clegg has “thrown his weight behind a wrecking ball that has wiped out what little remains of the social fabric of the UK.” Does he understand anything about (a) the economic situation that led to the (unquestionably courageous and democratically approved within the party) decision to enter the coalition and (b) the influence way beyond what the Lib Dem numbers could have justified that Clegg and his colleagues have had within the government?

      Clegg is not perfect (who is?) but he has played a desperately difficult hand very well and history will judge him much better than many currently within his own ranks – bearing in mind of course that quite a number of posters on LDV are not in Lib Dem ranks.

      Personally I find it amusing to come upon this thread and observe the gradual realisation – at least among those who are genuine party supporters- that few if any of the alternative names put forward would come anywhere near Nick Clegg in ability, judgement and determination. I agree with Paul Barker – shut up about the leadership and get on with campaigning for the best achievable election results.

    • Mason Cartwright 17th Feb '14 - 12:07pm

      “Does he understand anything about (a) the economic situation that led to the (unquestionably courageous and democratically approved within the party) decision to enter the coalition”

      Yes and I know quite a lot about the economic situation now. So does the Archbishop of Westminster. You should read his latest words.

      “the influence way beyond what the Lib Dem numbers could have justified that Clegg and his colleagues have had within the government?”

      It’s actually quite easy to have a lot of influence with small numbers if you agree with most of what the major party want even when these oppose your own stated objectives and you are under no obligation to back them.

      “history will judge him much better than many currently within his own ranks”

      I actually think the Lib Dems will probably want to forget him after 2015 and the history may well become a useful weapon for the Lib Dems political enemies.

      “bearing in mind of course that quite a number of posters on LDV are not in Lib Dem ranks”

      Depends on what you mean by “in Lib Dem ranks”. If they voted for them in 2010 and gave them this opportunity in government then they have a legitimate voice that should be heard.

      “few if any of the alternative names put forward would come anywhere near Nick Clegg in ability, judgement and determination”

      I wouldn’t be too proud of that because it doesn’t elevate your leader.

      “shut up about the leadership and get on with campaigning for the best achievable election results.”

      I believe you have a right to your own view but telling people to shut up doesn’t come across as respectful of theirs. At least it doesn’t to me I’ll let others decide for themselves.

    • Eddie Sammon 17th Feb '14 - 12:09pm

      Nick should receive an ultimatum: scrap the party of In campaign or face a leadership election. I think it’s awful politics. It’s not an EU referendum.

    • @ Paul Barker I hope you don’t include me in the anti-coalition minority. Mason Cartwright is correct lots of us supported the coalition and personally I am not advocating leaving it because at this stage I am not convinced leaving it would help matters.

      @ Christine Wills – My expectation was that having made an agreement with the Conservatives many aspects of which the party was not very happy with we would do what was in the coalition agreement not let the Conservative do things that we hadn’t agreed to. Remember we as a party agreed to them, however it is those things we as a party didn’t agree to that Nick Clegg should have stop happening. That is his failure as a leader.

      @ Denis – “the influence way beyond what the Lib Dem numbers”
      We are not just influencing the government from outside we are part of it and we have a veto. The Conservatives are happy using their veto but the problem is that Nick hasn’t used ours to ensure it was the coalition agreement and nothing more than the coalition agreement.

    • Eddie Sammon 17th Feb '14 - 12:15pm

      The Party of In campaign isn’t ultimatum worthy on its own, but we are starting to sound like Labour’s little sibling again.

    • Eddie Sammon 17th Feb '14 - 12:17pm

      You could just about get away with it if you are centre-left, but we are dancing left right and centre. Offering political broff.

    • Eddie Sammon 17th Feb '14 - 12:18pm

      I mean broth. lol.

    • Peter Watson 17th Feb '14 - 12:49pm

      @Eddie Sammon “Nick should receive an ultimatum: scrap the party of In campaign or face a leadership election.”
      I can’t help but fear that by becoming the face of an “In campaign”, Clegg will damage the pro-EU movement in the same way that he damaged the prospects of electoral reform by being the face of AV.

    • Eddie Sammon 17th Feb '14 - 1:00pm

      That is a possibility Peter. I know for sure I think the support of the big corporations for the EU kind of gives it the flavour of the new establishment.

      To be precise: my criticism is not fear of becoming Labour’s little sibling as such, but more a party of the left. I respect the left, but it’s not what I am working for and Nick Clegg isn’t the person to win back left wing voters anyway.

    • Richard Harris 17th Feb '14 - 6:16pm

      Jo Swinson. LD’s need something new to make people believe they are different. Another white middle class middle aged male will be more of the same,

    • Simon Banks 17th Feb '14 - 6:26pm

      If Nick Clegg resigns after a poor result, the party will need someone different – and that’s different in style as well as politics. Mason Cartwright’s comments, though, seem to me unrealistic. In practical politics people are rarely “unblemished”.

      Tim Farron has passion, verve and charisma. He’d inspire the activists in a way Nick Clegg has never done. I suspect his views are less right-wing too. But I have serious doubts about his judgement . His signing of that notorious letter, his calling people who resigned from the party “quitters” (so are those who joined us from another party also quitters?) and his handling of the Rennard affair don’t give me confidence. It’s a dilemma, as I hugely admire his plus points. Norman Lamb radiates commonsense and balance, but for me is much too close to Nick Clegg. Lynne Featherstone has appeared to interpret equalities as a matter of gender, body image and sexual orientation, a worry for those concerned about race and disability discrimination, and Jo Swinson? I’m not convinced there’s enough substance. Julian Huppert would be an excellent leader, energetic, focused, Liberal, but he’d probably struggle to get votes from the centre of the party right. He also needs to retain his seat against Labour, of course.

      Assuming the independence vote goes against the SNP, there are two Scottish candidates with valuable experience and considerable skill and warmth – Michael Moore and Alistair Carmichael.

      That’s all, of course, based on a scenario that may well not happen.

    • Richard Fagence 17th Feb '14 - 10:47pm

      Remarkable how much heat is generated by a piece in The Independent about who could possibly follow Nick Clegg. I note that it was written by someone with the surname of Leftly (!). As a lont-time Independent subscriber, I don’t recall his name appearing previously. Is he new? Is it a pseudonym? Either way it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. It just reinforces the editorial policy of the Independent which is to denigrate the Liberal Democrats wherever and whenever possible.

      And who is Amalric? His (her?) name keeps cropping up on LDV with opinions on everything, including who should be the next leader. And he suggests someone called Jenny WILMOTT might be a contender! Could that be Jenny WILLOTT, Amalric?

      I have no time for someone who doesn’t use their own name and who is so ignorant of leading members of the Parliamentary Party that he (she?) can’t even get their names right. Me? I’m off to do some real work, talking to the electorate, rather than sitting on this site trying to be important or influential. And I suggest you do the sqme.

    • I dunno, I like Jo Swinson, skip a generation and a complete break with boys club feel of the coalition. But it depends on the May elections.

    • @ Richard Fagence Firstly Amalric is a very uncommon boy’s name. You are correct I meant Jenny Willott and she is my first choice as the next leader, but my mistake does reflect the fact that her name has little name recognition with me. (I think I might have seen her speak at a Federal conference.) If she is a leading member of the Parliamentary Party she should try to get more TV exposure. It was only a few days ago that I was defending the people on here and expressing surprise anyone would be insulted by a Liberal Democrat member. To call me ignorant is an insult so I won’t be able to say ever again, that I have never been insulted on this site! I wouldn’t call you ignorant because you have a “q” instead of an “a” in “same”! While there are less than 50,000 members you can’t know them all. If you are an ex-councillor from Windsor then we are in the same region and I have seen you at Federal Conference. Me – I have been a member of this party since it started. The last block of my postings were in the late summer (you may have missed some of them if you were at conference) and I have posted another block before that. So I am not “new” it is just I am not a regular poster.

    • “the influence way beyond what the Lib Dem numbers could have justified that Clegg and his colleagues have had within the government”

      Well, of course, as the coalition was set up the Lib Dems were given a veto on any policy that wasn’t in the coalition agreement. But they chose not to use it against many policies that have been deeply damaging not only to the country but to the party as well.

    • lynne featherstone 18th Feb '14 - 10:27am

      Simon Banks – the reason for ‘interpreting equalities as women and LGBT’ was because as equalities minister that was my portfolio – women and LGBT. I did not have disability or race. Disability was DWP and at that time Maria Miller and Race and Religion were DCLG which was Andrew Stunnell. I often thought the title was a misnomer as many, as you have, seem to think I should have been fighting on issues which were not in my domain as a minister.

    • lynne featherstone 18th Feb ’14 – 10:27am

      If you were leader of the party, Lynne, then all policy areas would be within your domain. 🙂

      And you would also be making an undeniable advance for women in the party and beyond.

    • Peter Watson 18th Feb '14 - 12:13pm

      There are interesting reports today of a Labour decapitation strategy, putting resources into unseating Clegg in 2015 and looking for a “Portillo moment”.
      In the context of this thread, if Clegg is still the leader, “where we fight we win” could see the Lib Dems countering this with bus loads of activists heading to Sheffield Hallam and weakening efforts elsewhere, possibly sacrificing other seats to keep Clegg in the Commons. Is he worth it?
      And was Lib Dem support for the gagging law / lobbying bill a cynical manoeuvre to weaken the involvement of the NUS in that seat (and others)?

    • Peter, I think that has happened already, with many individuals being dragged into Hallam in 2012, to ensure there was no repeat of the ward lost in 2011, while the rest of Sheffield crumbled. I expect the same in 2014.

    • @Peter Watson. Do the reports you have seen refer to cooperation between the Sheffield Conservative and Labour Parties to achieve this decapitation?

    • Steve Comer 21st Feb '14 - 1:50am

      RC said “Yes, then we can choose a really weak leader and get on with being irrelevant in opposition, not implementing any of our policies and advocate spending imaginary money that doesn’t exist. The party can go back to being a marginal protest group that occasionally wins a by-election or two.”
      Methinks RC doth live in London SW1!
      We weren’t “irrelevant in opposition” pre-Clegg at All. A few years ago we ran major cities like Liverpool, Bristol, Newcastle, Sheffield. Portsmouth, Hull and were part of the administration in Birmingham and Leicester. We also ran many other Counties, Districts, and Boroughs. Liberal Democrats were responsible for budgets running into hundreds of millions of pounds, and we drove regeneration and inward investment in many of these places, mostly having replaced tired, complacent and incompetent Labour administrations. Thanks to the Coalition we have lost ground heavily to Labour in all those places (except Portsmouth) in recent years. Advances that took us two decades to build have been destroyed in the last 3 years, and due to the perception (partly true) that the party has drifted to the right under the ‘orange book tendency’ will be very difficult to re-build again.
      Relevance for me means being relevant to local people living in communities up and down the country, and that is what we have lost in recent years. The Coalition has gained us little more as a Party than the Lib/Lab pact did for the Liberal Party nearly 40 years ago.

    • I always thought the party very effective in opposition and I for one am not looking forward to a term with very scant LibDem representation, but it seems unavoidable. I think the General Election result will be devastating enough that Clegg steps down nearly instantly, leaving his successor in the worst position any Lib Dem leader has been in since the inception of the party. Hardly any voice, MPs, members or funding for 5 years, and no effective opposition to stop terrible tory/labour legislation.

      As for a successor – maybe Andrew George, biggest Lib Dem rebel of the coalition. I quite like Lorely Burt when she’s speaking, but she’s a total conformist really, check out her voting record! Anything but Farron!

    • Peter Chegwyn 21st Feb '14 - 10:34pm

      When speculating about possible leadership candidates post-2015 people need first to consider whether their preferred candidates will still be MPs post-2015.

      Lorely Burt has a majority of 175.

    • For LibDem MPs the chilling reality is that we are just over 14 months from the General Election.
      Peter Chegwyn 21st Feb ’14 – 10:34pm. “….When speculating about possible leadership candidates post-2015 people need first to consider whether their preferred candidates will still be MPs post-2015. ”

      If the election results in May 2014 are brilliantly good for the party, our MPs will feel confident of their chances in 2015.
      But how many of our MPs planning their own future will look at the 9% opinion poll ratings , the 8 lost deposits in parliamentary by elections, the disillusion of activists and former supporters and and feel confident? Wise heads will already be considering alternative careers and job opportunities for 2015,

    • nvelope2003 26th Feb '14 - 8:25pm

      Why is it that the Liberal Democrats are so obsessed with things that hardly any of the electorate care about. All these posts about who will be the next leader – well really. It is time for a reality check.

    • Do you think that the number of people who vote for a party based on their perceptions of its leader is insignificant?

    • Peter Chegwyn 27th Feb '14 - 12:12am

      nvelope2003 said “It is time for a reality check”.

      Indeed it is!

      Many people judge a party by its leader.

      Many people vote for a party if they like its leader.

      Our leader currently has a popularity rating of minus 57.

      Which goes a long way to explaining the current Lib. Dem. opinion poll rating of around 8%.

      That’s the reality.

      MPs cocooned in the Westminster bubble may be out of touch with that reality but those of us fighting local or euro elections in just a few weeks time know only too well the reality of the situation.

      Expect the more astute campaigners to promote their ‘local champion’ credentials.

      There won’t be many (any?) photos or mentions of Nick Clegg.

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