BBC Question Time: Lib Dem leadership election special – open thread

The two contenders for the Liberal Democrat leadership – Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne – go head-to-head on tonight’s special edition of Question Time (broadcast on BBC1 and online from 10.35 pm GMT).

The pressure will be on. Though Question Time’s audience is not large (a couple of million, or so), it’s likely that a high proportion of Lib Dem members will be tuning in; many times more than will attend all the hustings events combined. For many of the so-called ‘armchair membership’, their assessment of how each candidate has performed tonight will decide how they choose to cast their vote. Ballot papers will be sent out next week.

If you’re watching, and want to say what you think of how it’s going, feel free to use the comments thread. But please do keep the discussion reasoned and reasonable; abuse or ‘trolling’ will be moderated.

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This entry was posted in Leadership Election and Lib Dem TV.


  • But it would be true, Laurence 🙂

  • What a waste of question time, the Liberal party are a joke and even when some of their members were offered proper jobs in government they backed off, having thought to themselves “work for a living, WHY! I have this nice cushy job doing nothing and getting payed for it”. We need to get rid of MP’s that don’t do anything, like they want to get rid of teachers that don’t perform. Give them some targets, see what happens then.

  • Chris is winning it so far for me. Much more assured in his answers. As I’ve seen before Nick gets flustered. Nick is a lovely guy and very attractive but I have yet to see what it is that is getting him so much support.

    Wish Chris would stop pulling strange faces though!

  • Don’t worry, Laurence, we’ll still have Norman Baker to do that for us 🙂

  • Matgb @17 says “@ Paul (14). Strange, Lib Dem MPs have a tendency to win award for “hardest working MP”, and those I’ve met are in no way in ‘cushy’ jobs.

    Tory troll again guys?”

    Tory troll? Could be right. Reads like Paul Seery Grammar to me.

  • I think that Nick should relax a bit. Chris has started well, but he’s very long-winded.

  • It says something when I have to admit to being so bored that I’m finding designing the Eynesbury Hardwicke Focus far more interesting; O God no, someone has asked Nick Huhne and Chris Clegg was the difference is between them.

  • Nick just got angry… Is he a YL Red Guard in disguise…?

  • I think this is awful – a lacklustre affair with a terrible audience to boot. I’m sick of watching Nick glaring at Chris but then I always am bored by QT…

  • Why so long on this issue of public service reform? Both candidates are clearly giving the same answer.

  • Undecided hitherto, but Chris speaks with conviction and passion.

  • Stephen, I agree. However, I was surprised by the one quite nasty comment about Clegg from Chris, where he mentionned Laws. I thought that was a little low.

    Two good performances. Chris better than I expected, but Nick still has my vote.

  • Chris was excellent on Trident, totally understands the critical issues, Nicks argument that he doesn’t want to show his cards before the negotiation is entirely flawed by describing his cards on national TV…

    Nicks little chat about joe and his bus reminded me of the thick of it… It seemed a desperate attempt to persuade viewers that he’s a man of the people despite both candidates highly privileged backgrounds. He obviously share CK’s ability to talk like a normal human being!

    Chris’ final comment to welcome Nick into his shadow cabinet was very interesting especially as it wasn’t reciprocated by Nick, despite his stated attempt to return the compliments…

    (does anyone else think the alcohol expert on This Week sounds like a drunk?)

  • Very much like the Bristol Hustings – but Clegg was more passionate tonight.Chris breaths confidence – the way he dominated Dimby by finishing his answers.Chris now – Nick in ten years is my conclusion.

  • Interesting, considering that Nick has based his campaign around being ‘the great communicator’. I went in thinking Nick would win in, but ended up thinking Chris just pipped it – seemed like a potential leader and able to face up to Brown. Not yet convinced on Nick but will see how he does on Newsnight.

  • Not a great set of questions to answer (CK and coalitions) and not much between them for the first half of the show.

    But Clegg’s answers on what got him involved in politics was a turning point in my view. It was certainly the most outward-looking section of the programme, and I thought Chris faded after it. The Reagan quip was rather ill-judged, for example.

    I may be projecting my preconceptions (52) – but my reading of it fluctuated during the debate.

  • Chris edging it for me but no knock out blow.

    Wish someone in Chris’ team would tell him the current leader of Wrexham is a Lib Dem.

    Thought Nick got off to a very shaky start and was made to look rather shifty at times over his historic positions.

    Trident exchange was useful in clearing up real rather than portrayed positions and makes me more comfortable than before with Chris.

    For party as a whole a positive slot with some better sound bites on our core policy.

    Was annoyed that Chris was shut up as he started to lay out our tax plans.

    I’d hoped to declare my intent after today I think I’ll dwell on it over the weekend though

  • 62 It’s the way he told it…

  • Agree no knockout but I do think Chris won it pretty clearly (although I was supporting him before so perhaps I’m biassed). Some uncomfortable questions for Nick from Dimbleby – on breaking up NHS quote, wooing by Tories, thinner cv – unfair but they are questions he’d have to get used to if he won.

  • “Chris now – Nick in ten years is my conclusion.”

    That’s my conclusion too.

  • Dan Falchikov 16th Nov '07 - 12:23am

    Chris was the clear winner. He’s upped his game from last time and injected some passion into his performance. He’s still however dull and technocratic (and a social democrat not a liberal).

    I really don’t get the ‘Nick Clegg Great Communicator’ thing. He was for at least the first part of QT pants (although not helped by Dimblebore), he did raise his game in the second half, but he did nothing to shake off the impression he is the poor man’s Cameron.

    I’ve despaired of this contest from day 1 – there are at least a dozen MPs in our party better than the two we’ve got standing – yet none of them stood.

    At least if Webb stood we’ve had had some sort of debate about issues…

  • It was not Nick’s best performance but he is still by far the best option for the party.

    I despair at how many of our members are contemplating voting for Huhne. He is a good politician, not a great leader. Think how he will be presented outside of Westminsiter; dull, gray, technocratic.

    Clegg’s bodylanguage and discourse is exactly what the party needs to revive itself and the only means by which our policy will actually reach those we need to be reaching.

    If Clegg doesnt win, the party is dead in the water. It is as simple as that.

  • Ruth Bright 16th Nov '07 - 5:03am

    Chris was winning when the baby and I nodded off. I am so cheesed off that I missed it. Lesson – do not breastfeed whilst watching Question Time!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Grammar Police 16th Nov '07 - 8:08am

    Nick got off to a shakey start. Thought his answer to why he got involved in politics in the first place was brilliant though.
    I too will quote my non-member but LD supporting girlfriend, Chris “is John Major”

  • Gareth Epps 16th Nov '07 - 8:17am

    I thought both of them came across well against Dimblebore at his most boorish. Most of the questions were quite internal (when has Question Time had a question about electoral systems, I ask you!).

    Each was best when displaying passion and conviction.

  • Chris possibly stole me away from Nick. Chris performed far far better and when the big strength of Nick’s campaign has been the whole commnication agenda, he just didn’t communicate so well and I am sorry to say throughout I just thought he had the mannerisms of Blair and Cameron and I don’t think our message will be communicated well in that guise.

    Chris had real conviction and I have to say echoed so many of my feelings on issues – Trident, Vocational Education, Hung Parliament.

    I can’t trust Nick on electoral reform. I trust Chris to make PR a definate condition.

    Sorry Nick – maybe next time.

  • Grammar Police 16th Nov '07 - 8:27am

    Oops *shaky*!

  • Oops *definite* plus too many ands!

  • Peter Welch 16th Nov '07 - 8:39am

    73 Paul, this was the sense in which I thought it was ill-judged. Reagan used it against Mondale, who could be quite grey and leaden, while Reagan had some sparkle.

  • Already a declared supporter of Mr Huhne.
    My view was that Chris won on points but he needs to be wary of his contorted facial expressions when listening to others. Nick made excellent use of his hands. Will happily support whoever wins.

  • 76. I think the strength of Nick’s communication lies in the way he explains things, as well as the original way in which he looks at the issues, and that was on good display last night. It’s a style that appears less overtly political, and does mean he occasionally ums and ers, but that’s a small trade-off.

    I think both Clegg and Huhne performed well last night – the debate was an excellent advert for the party – but I prefer the way in which Clegg performed and think his approach will pay us dividends both in levels of support and quality of policy.

  • dominic hannigan 16th Nov '07 - 10:22am

    Last night made up my mind. I am glad I watched it.

    It shows the power of television. A hustings, both have been to my constituency in the last 12 months, a phone call from each, mass lobbying from every party activist that I know, emails, facebook groups, celebrity endorsements. None of it could fully make up my mind, but good old Dimbleby does it. The man is a hero!

  • I’ve posted my comments in the members forum…

  • Last night, Chris Huhne put himself in the position he should have been had it not been for the intense media bias of the past few weeks and the preferences of Parliamentary Party colleagues.

    Chris showed himself to be the more substantial politician. Forthright, articulate, firm about his values, and specific about policy.

    Perhaps Lord Ashdown can explain to us why it is essential to the party’s survival to have Nick Clegg as leader.

    Nothing I saw last night leads me anywhere near to that conclusion.

  • richardclein 16th Nov '07 - 11:44am

    It’s clear that the programme makers were only interested in finding issues where Nick and Chris had a slightly different point of view in an effort to make engaging TV. It was therefore a rather surreal situation in that most of the time they were agreeing with each other. There is no doubt Chris performed better on the night and has a more animated presentation style than during the previous leadership election (when I saw him at 4 leadership hustings). However when Nick was actually allowed to get his points across he did come over as passionate about liberal democracy. I also think his face fits better (although he looked very tired last night) in terms of how the party looks to the electorate.
    It was a good platform for the party to get our policies across even if the acoustics were awful.

  • ghost of gladstone 16th Nov '07 - 12:10pm

    both did well I thought – passion from Nick, experience from c.h. ; the clapping at the end of the programme was much louder than at the beginning.

  • Nikki Thomson 16th Nov '07 - 1:03pm

    QT wasn’t great. However, maybe party members shouldn’t complain that members of the audience asked different questions from the ones that we might have done.

    We need to be electing a leader who can inspire and enthuse the public at large, arguably *more* so than they can appeal to the party faithful.

    I’m increasingly tending to support Chris: despite the good looks and the occasional burst of passion, Nick seems to get flustered too easily.

    I’m not convinced that a Nick victory won’t cause some splits in the party; but I do also have concerns about Chris holding his own seat next time.

    I’m still pondering… but whoever wins really ought to invest in some non-grey suits.

  • 71 Members are compenplating voting for Chris because they have seen both of them in action and have come to a different conclusion from you!

    Neither candidate will leave the party’dead in the water’ and for supporters of either candidate to argue this is over the top and off-putting.

  • 92 – all the indications are that Chris is digging in well in Eastleigh.

  • JonathanManson 16th Nov '07 - 1:33pm

    I did not find QT at all inspiring. Having now just discussed it with a couple of local activists, I’m even more despondent. We desperately need a really impressive, dynamic, articulate and quick-witted leader. Surely, there’s one in the party somewhere? I’m not convinced we’ll make much progress with either of these as leader – just continue to stagnate/consolidate.

  • Chris passes the policy test and the Lib Dem member test. Nick passes the normal person test, he took a while to warm up in the Question Time arena though – something he needs to work on.

    Nick leading with Chris in policy would be a winning combination.

  • I thought that Chris Huhne comfortably won the Question Time debate. Clegg lacks credibility and I think that he also lacks intellectual rigour and would prove gaff prone. Why don`t Libdems champion the fact that they are the only mainstream socially democratic party? They should be proud of this.

  • 99 What evidence is there that Nick plays better to the public?

  • 98 – We are not social democrats, we are Liberals! hence why we would not “champion” social democracy but Liberalism!

  • Grammar Police 16th Nov '07 - 4:12pm

    Mat, the John Major comment was meant as another viewpoint of someone in the same position as your fiancéé (not an insult, but rather her impression!).

    I found Chris more impressive than I thought I would (more impressive than last time round?!) but her view is interesting as she is not party political.

    I don’t think she was thinking of Major’s 1992 victory, but his demeanor. Earnest, a little odd perhaps (maybe an acquired taste) and giving the impression of being a little dull . . . ;o)

  • I don’t think John Major has degrees from Oxford and the Sorbonne.

  • Neill Hendry 16th Nov '07 - 4:59pm

    I was a little perplexed at some of Clegg’s answers, particularly over Trident, but I have always been impressed by Chris and cannot understand why there seems to be an undercurrent of some real anti-Huhne feeling running through some influencers in the party. I voted Huhne last time and on this display, will definitely go with Huhne again.

    As others have said, Clegg in 10 years time perhaps. For now, it’s time for Chris Huhne

  • 98/102/106: Ok Big Mak, lets not get hung up on terminology. I want to support a party which agrees with the principle that government should temper capitalism`s inequalities. I`m fed up with Tory and New Labour surrender to free markets. Who shall I vote for then?

  • totallylibdem 16th Nov '07 - 5:33pm

    As an avid watcher of QT I was rather disappointed with this one as an event!

    I was hoping both candidates would show more passion and use the occasion to highlights their personal strengths when pitted agianst those of the other.

    For me they only managed to demonstrate what qualities they have in common

    That leaves me still undecided.

    Let us see which one comes up with the perfect formula to lead multi ethnic multi cultural Britain at the forthcoming hustings

  • As someone without a preference prior to QT, I believe that Huhne came across with more clarity, conviction and, most importantly in a prospective leader, authority.

  • Mike Falchikov 16th Nov '07 - 6:45pm

    Didn’t think there was a outright winner – neither did themselves any harm, but neither came through as the obvious winner. THey’ll both have to get slicker over the tedious coalition question. The answer lies nearby – inScotland. The existence of a semi-proprotional system ensured that Labour wouldn’t get carried away and claim they woud win by a landslide and the partnership agreement locked them into a compulsory 4-year term, virtually ruling them out of the Snap election option.

  • MatGB/109: you say that you are a socialist, so shouldn`t you agree with me that free markets concentrate resources and therefore don`t protect people. How can you be a socialist and also advocate free markets, and presumably the concept of a meritocracy. Listening to Chris Huhne, wouldn`t he regard himself as a social democrat? How are you going to get the money from those who have won the competition? What do you mean by a truly liberal solution?

  • MatGB: and another thing, I`ve been reading the blogs all afternoon and I`m puzzled as to why the bookies have Nick Clegg as such a strong favourite. The blog comments are far more pro Huhne. Do you think that the bookies have got it wrong?

  • Stocky; because bloggers and other activists tend to be more left-wing than either armchair Liberal Democrats or the rest of the public. Huhne appeals to those people naturally and his pitch has been based towards activists: the policy on trident, pushing PR and talking about not being the third tory party. We saw it in the last leadership election where he was the favourite amongst the online activists too.
    This doesn’t mean the bookies have got it right though, but we do need to recognise that the type of people who blog about Liberal Democrat stuff might actually be quite a homogenous group and not necessarily reflective of the wider party.

  • It is important to say though that we are an activist party. At least 50% of my local party’s members are active to a greater or lesser extent. I don’t think we should underestimate – or overestimate – our importance, but in the Lib Dems at least, we should be more confident of the importance of activists than ‘elsewhere!’

  • You’re lucky Martin – not only is my local party’s membership low, also a low proportion of it are active – I think there’s prob a high proportion of activists in areas where we’re strong, and a low proportion outside of that. In many places we’re not that strong

  • Mike Falchikov 19th Nov '07 - 12:04am

    Coming on to the spat on today’s (Sunday)”Politics Show” – after somewhat lukewarmly repudiating the “Calamity Clegg” e-mail, Huhne damaged his cause by taking up the issues apparently raised by this rogue communication, thus giving it an undeserved legitimacy. He shouldn’t have done this.
    Also the contribution by the former Lib Dem spin doctor which prefaced the studio debate was pretty pathetic in defining a “Liberal/libertarian agenda” as being about “lifting the smoking ban,more casinos and 24-hour drinking”. These are exceedingly peripheral issues compared to the need to roll back the police state that the Government is pushing inexorably towards, with its latest raft of so-called anti-terror measures which are r eally just an attempt to terrorise the population into submission.

  • ROGER WHITTLE 20th Nov '07 - 10:55pm

    What a shame the party is so focussed on the minutiae of the leadership contenders opinion. When it comes to leadership, we need someone to develop a “main thrust”.

    What we do not want is a Blairish leader, who simply fashions the party to suit himself. Someone who finally knocks the idea of collaboration with New Labour on the head would be good.

    Power seeking pragmatists are ten a penny in politics. I hope the new Libdem leader is not one.

  • Roger Whittle 22nd Nov '07 - 12:50am

    I think I’ve given up on this contest. Apart from the two contenders bickering about detail, these two committed eco – warriors have decided to match each tonne for tonne of tacky junk mail. I would really like to see some creativity and radicalism in the contest. What we are getting is grey – suited mediocrity. These guys are looking and sounding more like New Torylabour airheads than Liberal. They are proclaiming their superiority in almost every way possible, like speaking five languages!!! Well who cares? I think we are all(the members) disappointed. I think Chris Huhne will win, but does he deserve it? I don’t think so.

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