NEW POLL: Who do you want to see as the next Lib Dem deputy leader?

It’s early days – Vince only announced he was stepping down as the party’s deputy leader last night, in order to focus on his cabinet responsibilities – but who would you, LDV’s readers, like to see take over from Vince?

Of course the electorate for the deputy’s post are the party’s 57 MPs (party members choose our leader and president), and I imagine and hope there will be four criteria uppermost in their minds:

1) Ensuring a ‘balanced ticket’ for the party leadership. Nick and Vince have worked well together precisely because they look, sound and are different. Their combined blend of youth and experience has worked incredibly well for the party. I don’t imagine the party will want a 40-something white male as deputy to Nick. The party will also be looking to someone identified with the ‘social liberal’ wing of the party, or at least regarded as being within the mainstream of Lib Dem thinking. And finally there will be a strong feeling within the wider party that the Lib Dems need urgently to promote one of our female MPs into a prominent position.

2) Someone who can represent the non-ministerial ranks of the party. With so many of the party’s senior figures now in the government, the party needs someone who can represent the coalition who isn’t tethered to collective responsibility in quite the same way as an MP on the coalition government payroll. We know there are issues where the Lib Dems disagree, quite fundamentally, with the Conservatives. I’ve no doubt Nick Clegg will continue to represent Lib Dem interests as Deputy Prime Minister. But he will, inevitably, feel more constrained than if he were not sitting round the cabinet table. The new deputy should, therefore, be someone from outside the ranks of ministerial office, able to champion Lib Dem causes with the freedom that comes from the backbenches.

3) An MP who could be a credible future leader of the party. For all that the party will want and need a backbench MP, preferably female, preferably from the social liberal wing, it’s important too that they command credibility as a potential leader of the party. This person will be Nick Clegg’s number two, the deputy deputy prime minister. And as we saw when Vince Cable needed to stand in as leader when Ming Campbell resigned, choosing a deputy who can instantly step into the shoes of the leader is a vital quality – even more so, given the high-risk strategy the party has adopted of entering into coalition government, when suddenly politics is thrown into utter unpredictability.

The following names have all been suggested in the last 12 hours as potential contenders for the deputy leadership:

  • Lorely Burt
  • Tim Farron
  • Lynne Featherstone
  • Don Foster
  • Simon Hughes
  • Adrian Sanders
  • Jo Swinson
  • Sarah Teather
  • Steve Webb
  • Other

So over to LDV’s readers to cast your vote for who among them you favour … Or organise a write-in campaign in favour of someone we’ve missed out.

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49 Comments

  • Mike Moore or Lynne F.

    If it does not have to be an MP, then Julia G.

  • Well if we took the non Minister’ criteria as the most important ( which in my view it may be ) then surely that rules out Lynne, Steve and Sarah ?

    Simon would be my choice.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th May '10 - 11:03am

    Perhaps we should use the title “Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party” to make more clear what the role of this person is.

    As I have written elsewhere, the coalition situation indicates that there is a need to de-couple leadership of the Parlliamentary group in the party from more general leadership of the party as a whole. They are two separate roles, and there is a potential conflict of interest in holding both. Vince Cable’s resignation is a recognition of this.

  • Jack Holroyde 27th May '10 - 11:32am

    I’d back Lynne.
    I think she’s a miracle worker – and I can see a future Prime Minister in her.
    I can’t see that in anyone else.

  • Charles Kennedy!!

  • I think Simon Hughes, he’s media savey, to the left and a safe pair of hands

  • I hope Jo Swinson goes for it. She’d be great. Young, very articulate, passionate and a woman, which is very important if we are serious about encouraging women to get involved and to make our party in parliament and elsewhere more representative.

  • Actually Jo would be really good. We need to grow our party membership and project our party identity, and inparticular amongst the young who were receptive to our election campaign. Who better?

    Photogenic and articulate, it’s time for a higher profile.

  • Dave Hennigan 27th May '10 - 12:08pm

    I would personally vote for Simon Hughes, for energy, vigour and the ability to enthuse. Even before his successful tenure as President, Simon was campaigning across the country – boosting many a flagging campaign. (There have been many)

    I have never seen someone so good at ‘walk-abouts’, pressing the flesh and taking to real people. In a world of synthetic politicians, he is a breath of fresh air. He would have had Mrs Duffy inviting him round for a cup of tea and to meet the grandchildren. Simon will re-connect the membership to the leadership – something vital – after all, he has probably met most of them!

  • Simon Hughes is the best choice to keep the membership “on-side” with the coalition. He’s already the unofficial media spokesman of the party!

    But then Jo Swinson would be an excellent choice as a potential future leader.

  • paul barker 27th May '10 - 1:00pm

    Simon would be great except that everybody knows who he is & what he stands for, he would inevitably be seen as more of the same. Someone like Jo or Lynn would show a new side of The LDs, make more people take a new look. We need to be, & be seen to be The Party of The Future.

  • Maybe Simon Hughes or Ming Campbell as chair of the parliamentary party (and general backbench shop-steward), and a younger MP (Farron/Swinson) as deputy leader, would be a good combination?

  • Ruth Bright 27th May '10 - 1:30pm

    It has got to be Jo (Swinson I mean, though Shaw would have been nice too) – she was marvellous on the Scottish GE debate she did.

    I can’t understand how Lynne Featherstone gets away with it – her tabloidy sanctimonious comments about the Duchess of York were undignified and ill-judged.

  • Norman Lamb and Jenny Willot would have time to concentrate on the job of the debuty leader, as they don’t have work in the government.

  • Foregone Conclusion 27th May '10 - 1:56pm

    Nobody seems to know what exactly the Deputy Leader does apart from deputise when the Leader is unavailable. Could someone please explain to me? Obviously it does require some day-to-day work if Vince is resigning for that reason.

  • What’s the fourth criteria?

  • Jeremy Hargreaves 27th May '10 - 2:27pm

    Paul Holmes ceased to be chair of the parliamentary party in 2007 – it has been Lorely Burt since then (defeating Evan in a hotly contested battle, if I recall correctly).

    Jock and others are correct that the position we are talking about is deputy leader of the Commons Parliamentary Party – the post of deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats does not exist. Having said that, of course, everyone treats this as that, and that is obviously not totally irrational…

  • I am not a member of the Lib Dems although I do vote for them. If I had a say, it would be for Jo Swinson also. A number of reasons:

    1. She’s Scottish – important since you’ve gone into coalition with the Tories who aren’t well liked in Scotland.

    2. Independent of those in government as article points out the Deputy should be.

    3. Competent on issues relating to economics, environment and foreign affairs, and a good local champion.

    4. Comes across well, has a nice, friendly personality, not like most politicians.

    5. She’s female. That’s not to say there should be any positive discrimination, as most here including me are against that, but if you are 50/50 say between Jo and Simon Hughes, this could be the tie-breaker, as the party does get a lot of criticism for coming across as overwhelmingly white male middle class.

    But most of the names brought up here would also make good Deputy leaders.

  • There’s now a Group “Jo Swinson for Deputy Leader” on Lib Dem ACT.
    Please join it if you support her!

  • Patrick Smith 27th May '10 - 7:07pm

    I think Simon Hughes is the best choice for the vacant Deputy Leader role as he has been excellent as a media expositioner in media on the `Coalition Governmnet’ and combines political wisdom,wit and craft whenever he speaks.

    Simon Hughes smiles a lot and has 30 years constituency track record in Southwark and Bermonsey constituency and has thousands of miles of travel when President over 8 years. I have always admired Simon Hughes greatly on his humanity and ability as an active listener..

    Simon Hughes also connects best with all grass roots Members and is respected by Labour and is feared most by the Tories.He would also act as a counterweight with our gifted Leader as he makes principled policy beliefs the centre of his Liberal gravity at all times.

    Tim Farron is also very able and a talented speaker and clearly a very entertaining orator at Party Conferences and is very passionate in his beliefs and knows how to beat the Tories at home.

    There is a case to put for a female candidate for this post, notwithstanding that Sarah Feather,Lyn Featherstone or Jo Swinson all have other fish to fry but we do have a female President doing an excellent job.

    I would agree with others that someone with a counterbalance Liberal background pedigree like Paul Holmes or Lorely Burt would equally make a good Chair of the Parliamentary Group as they have both feet firmly on the ground and reach deep into grassrooots opinion.

  • Stan Collins 27th May '10 - 8:52pm

    These are no ordinary times and, with the leader in government, ‘deputy leader’ takes on a completely new meaning.

    The job of deputy will be promoting Lib Dem policy as opposed to coalition policy. This will require skill to make sure the pressure is kept on, like the Tory 1922 committee is doing, to get the best deal possible for us and the country while not undermining our ministers. That means that the deputy is best outside government.

    At the same time the deputy must not pose a threat to the leader. This post must not be a launchpad for a leadership bid. The leader will have a difficult enough job fighting our corner in government without the threat of a potential rival as his deputy building up to pounce at the first opportunity.

    It is also worth recalling that the most successful deputy leaders (as deputy leader) are usually a bit older than the leader. In these unprecedented circumstances that will be particularly important.

    Get this choice right and we will be strengthened greatly. Get it wrong and we’ll suffer.

  • Nishma, Harrow 28th May '10 - 12:17am

    Lynne Featherstone comes across as the most human. Sarah T is great but her brief is too tough to also manage the deputy leadership.

  • Peter Thornton 28th May '10 - 7:08pm

    I’m backing Tim Farron. I was Tim’s constituency chair when he was first elected 5 years ago and I’ve seen him transform politics in this area to such an extent that yesterday all of Kendal Town Councils 24 seats went Lib Dem. He also increased his majority from 267 to 12,264 taking the majority of the votes from the Conservatives. So, Tim knows how to appeal to the voters.
    He also relates to party members and has led them in an incredible work rate over the 5 years. He leads from the front, very successfully.
    Finally, Tim can very quickly master a complicated brief. A very necessary attribute for a deputy leader.

    Simon is a great Lib Dem and is indeed a legend, but he doesn’t have the wide appeal that Tim is capable of commanding.

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