Leadership Platform 7: A message from Simon Hughes…

Dear Friend,

As I’m sure you know this is the last week of the Liberal Democrat leadership contest. For your vote to count it needs arrive by first post on Saturday. So if you haven’t already voted I urge you to do so now.

We are fortunate to have two excellent candidates to be leader. I would be delighted work with either of them. And I believe this contest has been an excellent showcase for our party.

However my vote in this election has gone to Nick Clegg. I believe he has that ‘X factor’ that means he can reach out to those millions of voters who share our values but who do not yet support us.

I’ve worked closely with Nick on a number of important issues over recent years – immigration, improving diversity in our party and policing. And what has particularly impressed me is the way in which he is able to convey authentic liberal values to a wider audience. That is a skill we must have in our next leader. It is not good enough to talk just to ourselves, we must reach out – Nick can do that.

Please do vote. This election is important to the future of our party and important to the future of our country.

Best wishes,

Simon Hughes MP

ps If you want to find out more about Nick’s campaign you can do so here: www.nickclegg.com; Chris’ website is here: www.chris2win.org

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27 Comments

  • Hywel Morgan 11th Dec '07 - 10:39am

    “I believe he [Clegg] has that ‘X factor’”

    I assume he doesn’t mean that a year later no-one will even be able to remember his name 🙂

  • Hywel Morgan – clearly you aren’t familiar with the charts: Leona Lewis (last years winner) is no.1 in both the single and album charts, and Shayne Ward, the winner 3 years ago is in the top 3, and both have sold millions. (knowledge comes with having teenage kids) Type of success our potential leader would need?

  • Hywel Morgan 11th Dec '07 - 11:20am

    “Hywel Morgan – clearly you aren’t familiar with the charts:”
    Blissfully so 🙂 There’s been very little decent stuff since Nirvana IMO

    “Leona Lewis… Shayne Ward”

    I graciously concede to the high speed efficiency of the Clegg rebuttal operation 🙂

  • Isn’t it nice of Simon to play the dutiful role of President and remain impartial? It seems that only Vince has remembered that those in senior positions within the party should be above trying to influence such independent minded voters as ourselves.

  • Good job for Nick that I’d already voted before Simon’s intervention !!!!!!

    Bad news for Nick – I voted for him (not good to have the support of a Pardoe/ Beith/ Rendall/ Huhne voter !!!!!)

  • Lynne – the fundamental issue and the elephant in the room for years has been tackling the lack of BME diversity in the party. EMLD was sent, early on in his campaign, unsolicited, Nick Clegg’s manifesto for tackling this, asking me to circulate it to our members, which I duly did. I then, in the spirit of balance and fairness, asked Chris’ team to send me his proposals on what he would do. I received his letter, from which your are quoting, and duly circulated this too. Until we got Chris’ letter, questions were raised by many EMLD members as to what his policy was. It was not in his original manifesto, nor on his website.
    Having said that, I’m pleased that Chris as well as Nick, have both made strong statements on just how important a challenge we have in achieving a representative party – in case anyone hasn’t noticed, we now have NO elected BME parliamentarians. Both Nick and Chris have said publically, that this is unacceptable.
    Simon and a few others, including,previous EMLD chair, Fiyaz, Linda Jack, James, and myself, have felt like a few lone voices constantly raising this issue. Its time all party representatives realised this is a mainstream issue. I am uncomfortable with this turning into a ‘Chris is saying more than Nick’ contest, though I suppose this is inevitable. Many of us are looking for more than commitment, thats the easy bit, and some action.
    EMLD will work with whoever is elected the Leader, as we have done previously, to ensure that we change the face of the party. We will expect more than just soundbites and ‘statements’ as we’ve seen with previous Leaders. Expectations are now much higher.
    The Diversity Officer, is already making a difference, but it took years of badgering and handwringing to get this post. He is however only one officer in the party. I would expect all MPs,and local parties, particularly those in constituencies with very high BME communities, to engage, and play a proactive role in recruiting and building up our support.
    Finally, I think we are all agreed that the ‘Diversity Fund’, has been of no benefit to BME candidates.

  • Martin Land 11th Dec '07 - 4:31pm

    I think we just need to select talented hard-working Liberal Democrats with a proven record of work and action; isn’t it time ALL parties learn’t that fast-tracking people because they belong to a minority does not work and often ends in tears; as the Tories discovered in Southall and we just discovered in the North West. Am I alone in noting that in my neck of the woods where we have seats that could be won – by really hardworking candidates prepared to work over 2 or 3 elections – we never get applicants from Women and Ethnic Minority Candidates? But when a target seat comes up there is a queue of women screaming ‘gender balance’. I’m afraid I would be more convinced by the proponents of ‘diversity’ if I didn’t just see it as acting as a short cut for the few rather than a long march for the many.

    As for Simon Hughes; yes, he is entitled to his personal opinion and no, as Party President he shouldn’t express it.

  • Martin- not clear who exactly was ever ‘fast-tracked’ in the North West?- or anywhere for that matter.
    I’m afraid you’re wide off the mark that no women or ethnic minorities have ever stood in development seats. We had around 40 BME PPCs in the last general election, virtually all in no-hope seats. I would respect your analysis if you could back it up with hard evidence that somehow all we do is sit back and wait for a target seat! My friend, many of our female and BME members gave that up some time. How many target seats have actually had BME members even on their shortlist?
    Your reference to a ‘queue of women screaming gender balance’, I find offensive, and frankly insulting! People like you are part of the problem when we are met with resistance every time we talk about taking any action to fix the democratic deficit in our party.

  • Martin Land 11th Dec '07 - 6:02pm

    Meral, I’m just tired of all the bleating. I seem to remember working my guts out in Leicester to get an ethnic minority MP elected. I seem to remember working in North West London for years for BME candidates; this party does everything it reasonably can for gender balance and for ethnic minorities.

    People in this party will bend over backwards to support Women and BME candidates, positive discrimination is not needed because local parties full of Liberals will always be willing to give the benefit of the doubt to women and BME candidates and be tough on middle-aged men.

    But they will eventually be selected NOT because they are Women or BME candidates, but because thay are hard working Liberal Democrats. There is no democratic deficit and I’m glad you used the word ‘fix’, not I. We already have a new generation of younger women candidates who are ready to be judged purely on their own merits and abilities – and expect to be – hopefully that is the case with BME candidates as well.

    Tell me, how many of the 40 BME candidates at the last election are going to stand again in the same seat and are continuing to work hard all year round to win that seat? Those who are will win eventually and will deserve to do so. That’s what most of our MP’s did at that’s what is needed. That’s what most of our 4400 Councillors did. This is the Liberal Democrats; target seats are created, not offered.
    I’ll tell you what Meral, I’m a pretty good campaigner; I’ll do you a deal. You find me a BME candidate who wants to win and is willing to move to a seat near me, say Peterborough, and is prepared to commit to fight for three General Elections and to work hard all year round for 10-12 years and I’ll get them elected.

  • Ruth Bright 11th Dec '07 - 7:01pm

    Martin, the point is not selection of female candidates but the lack of support once they are there. I had two babies during my five years as a PPC. My partner and I had timed things to perfection (or so we thought!) one baby born two years before the 2005 General Election and the second born a year after the General Election. But after both births there was enormous pressure to get back to political duties way before I was physically up to it. In a job one is protected from this sort of pressure – being a PPC offers no such protection. After 22 years of working for this party I was certainly not given the benefit of the doubt as you put it.

    Terry is right about the gender balance rules not being enforced, “my” seat was allowed to select from an all-male list. If I had been given a proper maternity leave I could have stood myself but despite the fact that no other female could be found to stand the party was unable to offer any flexibility in such a situation.

  • Geoffrey Payne 11th Dec '07 - 7:15pm

    The problem the party has is that despite having the best policies multiculturism – by virtue of the fact that we do not have to pander to the Sun or Mail, we nonetheless lack the role models that would encourage BME people to join our party. It has been a vicious circle for us ever since I can remember. This is also combined with a lack of resources – we simply cannot do the same things the other 2 parties do to recruit BME people. Locally we can do things, and local parties should try to make recruiting BME people a higher priority, albeit that they are struggling to get their Focus out on a regular basis. One final obstacle is that BME people are disproportionately working class and live in areas where it is hard to recruit anyone into any political party.
    However there are BME people in the Lib Dems who are working very hard – Meral as our GLA candidate in North East London is certainly one. And I can think of many others as well.
    I am impressed at the committments made by the leadership candidates and I am intrigued to see how they intend to follow them through.

  • Martin Land 11th Dec '07 - 9:07pm

    17. Ruth; I’m sorry to hear that – that certainly wouldn’t have happened on my patch. I’m surprised to hear we are not more helpful and understanding as a party. I have to say we have had a number of difficult personal circumstances to cope with here in recent years (I won’t go into details) among candidates and councillors and I’m pleased to say our local parties have all acted impeccably and been highly supportive.

  • Simon is being Simon again..saying one thing (“I will be staying impartial as president”) and doing another (backing a particular candidate)..his endorsement is diminished by his own inconsistency and lack of judgement.

  • Martin, ‘thats what most of our 4400 local councillors did’ You make my point. Only 148 or so of those are BME cllrs. We don’t know how many are women (though the information exists) The main plank of your argument seems to be that women and BME members are not prepared to work long term to get elected. This is simply nonsense. Ruth has given you just one example of how the system does not allow for the extra burden and responsibilities of normal life she sets out. Local parties are the gatekeepers in effect of council seats. How many are actually going out and headhunting people from BME communities?
    Thank you for the offer Martin, but frankly, I cannot up sticks and move to Peterborough, in the hope that one day I’ll reach the dizzy heights of getting to be an MP. I’m sure there are people in your Region, who are young enough and are prepared to campaign for 10 years to get there (BME or female) In the meantime, I’m usefully employed as a mother, a councillor, chair of EMLD, and GLA candidate (in a seat that needs a lot of work)

  • Geoffrey Payne 12th Dec '07 - 8:48am

    To answer Rob, I am fed up with people in the party having to be “impartial”. Of course that should apply to the returning officer, and some members of the Cowley Street staff.
    Since Simon was not impartial in the previous leadership election (ie he stood) then why should he be so in this one? Why for that matter are Paddy Ashdown and David Steel happy to support one of the candidates, but Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell are saying nothing?
    I am curious to know what these people think, but it probably won’t effect my vote as I can make my own mind up.
    Although I have previously supported Simon for leader of the party, I find his support for Nick Clegg hard to fathom, and I will be supporting Chris Huhne.

  • tony pickett 15th Dec '07 - 11:28am

    Simon you are party president-you should remain impartial-you column is a disgrace.
    You should resign. How could you rule on any irregularities on the contest as president?

  • Hywel Morgan 15th Dec '07 - 11:43am

    “How could you rule on any irregularities on the contest as president?”

    Is that the role of the President? Even in the 99 campaign when the President was neutral the Returning Officer was somebody like the Chair of the Federal appeals panel or some similar body.

  • Richard Whelan 15th Dec '07 - 12:54pm

    Can anyone tell me what day and time the declaration of the result will be announced and whether it will be on Television?

  • Dinti Batstone 15th Dec '07 - 2:24pm

    Lynne at No.1 says “BME candidates and activists in the Party have told me […] that they want and need a unit like the Campaign for Gender Balance […] I believe such a unit must have permanent funding to ensure that we can provide practical, effective and long-term support for our BME candidates.”

    My understanding is that Campaign for Gender Balance’s funding is far from secure- there was a rush this summer to secure sufficient funds for the Campaign to continue, and I was asked to contribute funds by monthly direct debit.

  • Geoffrey Payne 15th Dec '07 - 3:26pm

    The membership level in Hackney has picked up nicely in recent months, and hopefully that is happening nationally as well.
    This is what we need to improve the financial state of the party and it’s ability to fund these things. If the GET is suffering a funding crises, hopefully that will change soon.

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