Opinion: This will be closer than we all think!

NormanLambTim Farron MPMost of the pundits, and the party, appear to think this leadership election is over already.  Paddy Power has Tim Farron at 1/5 odd-on next to poor Norman’s 3/1.   My view is that it’s going to be a lot closer than everyone is thinking – and that there may, just possibly, be a surprise in store.

Why so?   I would point to three main reasons.   The first is that the contest will soon refocus from  one between ‘Coalition Man’ and ‘Dissenting Man’ to one between two MPs who have to convince the public that we are worth voting for again.    Both men come over quite differently.  Norman is pragmatic, non-tribal and empathic which plays well with swing voters but, arguably, he has not yet found a way to portray his charisma on television.   Tim attracts attention, can capture the mood but can, at times, lack authority and gravitas.    Tim will certainly be a populist which, as a small party, we will need.  But many party members will worry about whether a Lib Dem party under Tim will ever add up to more than a string of likeable but slightly idealistic positions.

The second reason why I think it will be tight is due to the political propositions each candidate represents.  Let’s be clear here, Norman’s liberalism is more ‘classical’ and he will, I think, push hard the idea that our core proposition to voters is to remove the barriers to help them to make the most of their potential, regardless of their starting point.  To do this, I suspect Norman will underline the need to reform and decentralise public services to support individual choice, to keep public spending under control and make audacious moves to boost social mobility.

Tim, meanwhile, will, I think, emphasise ‘social liberalism’ which, in the next few years, may make us look and sound to voters as being to the left of Labour. This will appeal to ‘protest voters’ from Labour more than the man or woman in the street.   Therefore I believe that any Lib Dem Member, will, when faced with the choice of turning left or not, find themselves a little more torn than polls of Members are picking up now.

The third reason it will be close is that both men are fantastic campaigners.   In an election in which colleagues with titanic majorities were smitten, both Norman and Tim survived with healthy majorities.   Up close, both have strong charisma and will attract a strong band of campaigners, all pushing their man hard.   At hustings and in the media both candidates will play well and sway people their way.   This will help create a far more equal contest than the bookies are predicting.

Cards on table (if you hadn’t guessed) I am a Norman man.  I  believe him to be an outstanding individual with the ability and energy to galvanise recovery.  While he is 12 years older than Tim his energy is the match of anybody I know, young or old.  This will be one close campaign!

* Craig Dearden-Phillips is a former County Councillor, Bury St Edmunds & Forest Heath Lib Dems

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  • Mavarine Du-Marie 17th May '15 - 5:41pm

    That’s was my thinking too! Although as a member of the Libdems I’m still not decided on either one, therefore, I am following what they both have to say very closely. Time will tell.

  • “While he is 12 years older than Tim his energy is the match of anybody I know, young or old”

    Why does this remind me of a previous leadership election?
    Answers on a postcard to Ming Campbell might be fitting.
    He was replaced by a much younger man. It did not turn out well.

    It is not Norman Lamb’s age that is the most important factor in this election. Whilst it is true that he will touching whatvwe used to call statutory retirement age by the 2020 general election that should not matter, but it might be considered wise in the present circumstances to go for a leader who can last two general elections. It will not be too much of an incentive to say to Norman, look if you do really well in the next two general elections you will be able to return to the position of leader of the third party by 2025. I doubt if he dreams at night of the joys of being the third leader in line at the Cenotaph on a cold Sunday morning in November by the time he is 70.

    I agree with you, Craig, that bookmakers’ odds on an internal election within the Liberal Democrats are nonsense. What the heck does Paddy Power know about it?

    However, on your third point is not clear to me that there is actually indisputable evidence that both of the candidates are excellent campaigners.
    One of them has been re-elected with 52% of the vote.
    The other has been re-elected with 39% of the vote.

    That must be evidence of something.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th May '15 - 5:50pm

    Good analysis Craig. I watched Farron on Murnaghan and Lamb on the Sunday politics today and I was more impressed with Lamb, but no candidate is deal for me.

    Personally, and from my comments people will realise this, I am an “authoritarian liberal” and would prefer someone like Ed Balls. This might sound amusing, but he is kind of my style. Further left than Blair, further right than Ed Miliband, a bit of a bruiser – this is what I think we need! Give him a call! 😀

  • Eddie Sammon 17th May '15 - 5:52pm

    Sorry “ideal” not “deal”.

  • Norman did BRILLIANT on Sunday Politics, I thought. Handling Andrew Neil is not easy but he coped admirably and really made a strong case for himself as the strong, pragmatic and – most importantly – fully inclusive leader the party needs right now.

  • Alex Sabine 17th May '15 - 6:54pm

    Eddie: I appreciate where you’re coming from from your previous posts (centrism), but Ed Balls…?! I can’t think of a problem to which he would be the solution. (I do recognise your description of him as ‘a bit of a bruiser’, but a pugilistic style didn’t spare him from electoral failure…)

  • Eddie Sammon 17th May '15 - 7:13pm

    Lol, Alex, yes I am a centrist, but I suppose this past year or so I have grown a bit of an affinity for the “no nonsense” kind of Brownite wing of the Labour Party. I am generally more pro business than them, but I think they have a point in challenging the sometimes elitist politics of the liberal right and they have a kind of pragmatism often lacking in the liberal left.

    I also think Damian McBride is a very good commentator nowadays, albeit a bit of a populist.

    Anyway, let’s stay on topic. I just thought I’d say where I think both candidates are lacking. But for all intents and purposes I’m in Lamb Camp.

  • Ray Cobbett 17th May '15 - 7:26pm

    Perhaps somebody should draft a person spec as well as open up the field and offer a vision of what sort of party, in the light of what happened, the winner is supposed to lead. Early days but so far this contest has all the excitement of choosing who should lead the local residents association.

  • If it is a close run thing (and probably if it isn’t) would it be possible for the one who wins to give the one who loses a strong role in resurrecting the party? This isn’t the usual sort of leadership election, the winner won’t be covered in glory but most likely in derision from the media and other parties . We cannot afford to lose anyone from the Parliamentary party. I can understand that it may be difficult for Nick to take a full part for a while, though I hope not , so if the loser doesn’t participate in all the hard work we need to do there will effectively be only 6 MPs working towards our emergence on the scene of post 2020 politics.
    So this needs to be a “polite” campaign so that no one takes total umbrage at something the other one says or does.
    Personally I would prefer a leader with the capacity to enthuse the public. and the eminence grise to be the one who can drive organisational change but everyone will have their own opinion on this. We definitely need someone who can enthuse and motivate the party as well as someone who can look at how this promotes policy development and structural change within the party. It may well be that these qualities are not embodied in one man.
    I hope that both candidates will sign up to this in recognition of the difficulty the party is in at present.

  • I am currently undecided.
    However I would frame the choice differently. I think the Liberal Democrats should do what it has always done in the past up until Nick Clegg became leader, which is to develop it’s identity how it likes and let others concern themselves whether we are left or right.The Liberal Democrats were the ONLY centre party at the last general election, and look what happened. If by centre you mean splitting the difference somewhere between Labour and Tory then the voters are not interested. And it is a pointless exercise when you consider that the other 2 parties are always shifting to the left or the right themselves, so who is to say where you can find the middle? It might change next week.
    The risk for Norman is that he will be the “more of the same” candidate, effectively ignoring the results of the last general election.
    Where the author talks about decentralising public services – well we all agree with that – but the key question is will they be decentralised under democratic control, or will they instead be “decentralised” as they were in the Coalition by being marketised and under the control of private operators? This is something I would really like to know.
    So I hope he doesn’t turn out to be the “more of the same” candidate. The party is at great risk at the moment and we cannot go on as we have been doing over the past 5 years.

  • No, the Lib Dems turned centre right in the Coalition, I don’t ever remember the Party moving so far to the right endorsing the bedroom tax, a massive rise in tuition fees and further commercialisation of the NHS, the abolition of the AWB and of coursed no wonder when it was being led by a clique of Orange Bookers rubber stamping policies undermining those on lower incomes and the vulnerable in society. The outcome of the change of direction was a major rejection by the electorate. As an ex member the only way I would re-join is if the party moved away from centre right politics back to social liberalism which believes in a mixed economy and the only Leader I can see taking the Party forward of the two is Tim Farron, it’s time for Tim.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th May '15 - 8:59pm

    David, the Lib Dem manifesto in 2015 advocated increasing dividends tax, capital gains tax, lots more regulations, a load of ring fenced budgets (including international aid) and hardly anything on defence. It was not a centre-right manifesto.

    Personally I thought the manifesto was too left leaning. I don’t want middle class small business owners and pensioners to pay more tax. This is why they probably voted Conservative.

    Gordon Brown lost to Cameron in 2010. Ed Miliband lost in 2015. The keep moving left until you beat the tories strategy doesn’t work. Although I think we have a responsibility to do more for people suffering within our own borders. This is what I think the SNP are onto.

  • Stephen Hesketh 17th May '15 - 9:07pm

    In the run up to the G.E. I seem to recall many questions being put to Labour regarding the closeness of Ed Milliband and Ed Balls to Gordon Brown.

    Now correct me if I am wrong but did Norman Lamb not have a probably even closer relationship with one Mr N Clegg erstwhile Deputy PM and voter’s favourite?

    Norman did some good work on mental health but, at the end of the day, he is the continuity ‘lets do something similar but do it better this time’ candidate.

    Yes, this may be closer than many think; absolutely no one believes this this is going to be a coronation but if we vote for someone/something that even has the merest whiff of ‘more of the same/the electorate were wrong’, we will be trounced again.

    If that were to happen, the Liberal Democrats would be dead in the water. We get just one chance at this. Lets make sure we get it right.

    Another advantage Tim Farron would have is, as the tide hopefully turns in our favour, he would be better able to make the case for the positives of what we had achieved in government with less danger of it looking and sounding as though we knew we were right all along.

    Finally Tim Farron is from the mainstream centre-left of the party. Norman Lamb represents the Centrist-right. As we have just seen, our natural constituency in the country is typically and predominantly made up of centre-left voters. If anyone has made a play for the soft Tory vote, it was Nick Clegg and his inner circle. I think the electoral evidence suggests this strategy may be slightly floored.

    When the crunch comes soft Tories vote for the Tories. Why would they risk voting for the nice but always slightly suspect Lib Dems?

    Oh and, cards on table, (if you hadn’t guessed) I am a Tim man 🙂

  • Stephen,

    And most important of all, Tim stuck to his pledge on tuition fees…. It was always in Norman Lamb’s power to stick to the pledge, so why did he not? So he could be a minister?

  • Eddie,

    Labour lost because the electorate did not trust Ed Miliband. Only 39% of their own voters though Ed would make the best PM. See here: http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2015/05/reflections-on-the-election-polls-and-creating-a-conservative-party-people-need-not-be-shy-about-supporting/

    It had little to do with their policies – most people did not notice what they were…

    Ashcroft does not bother to analyse Nick Clegg but his approval rating was even worse . We did so badly in large part because our Leader was so distrusted that people stopped listening to him, ever since 2010.

    Westmorland and Lonsdale used to be a strongly Tory seat, yet Tim Farron got 52% of the vote there (compared to 39% for Norman Lamb in Norfolk North). A social Liberal is quite capable of attracting Tory votes if people think he means what he says. In these dark times we need a leader who can attract votes from both left and right of the outmoded linear spectrum.

    @Dave Harris: We will not have a choice about fighting the Greens: they see our vote as soft and will be targeting us in local government, make no mistake. But the Greens are to the left of where Labour were in 1945, they are not a “centre left” party at all..

  • Elaine Woodard 17th May '15 - 10:14pm

    I have still to make my mind up and will not do so until I hear more from both the candidates on their vision for our Party. I also want to see them at a hustings event. I will say though that I must have been watching a different Sunday Politics show from some of the other commentors because I didn’t think Norman performed very well.

  • Jonathan Pile 17th May '15 - 10:36pm

    Tim Farron is the best choice for the party. firstly he can heal the divisions of the Clegg and Coalition years and as past party president has been outside of the Westminster bubble. Tim I believe will help the party build on liberal values to make a reasoned mix of left and centre policies which will both right and popular. He stood outside of the previous leadership and can unite the party.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th May '15 - 11:43pm

    Thanks Andrew. Guardian front page tomorrow: “EU exit may be in UK’s interest, says top firm.”.

    The point is that those advocating the Liberal Democrats remain the party who champion the EU pretty much regardless like Farron and even Lamb are on the wrong side of history.

    I support the EU, but we need to be able to question pretty much all assumptions. Time to toughen up, like many in Labour are doing.

  • ThePaddy Power odds are actually 1/6 on Farron and 7/2 on Lamb for the next leader. William Hill have Farron at 1/7 and Skybet have him at 1/8. I think the bookies have got this right, Farron will win by a country mile. Does anyone really believe that all those new members that have been flocking to join the party have been inspired by the thought of Norman Lamb as leader?

  • Paul Kennedy 18th May '15 - 12:37am

    If you want to compare the candidates listen to what they said about tuition fees to the Dimbleby brothers:

    Norman Lamb (Thursday 9 December 2010): http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/question_time/9275306.stm

    Tim Farron (Friday 10 December 2010 – after 2:20 mins): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wdl7p#auto

  • As other posters point out Farron has support because of his stand on tuition fees. People want a leader that we can trust to do as he says and Farron is that man.It does not seem to be that close from my conversations with members. Everyone seems convinced that Farron will win.

  • My only issues with Farron are his position on same sex marriage and that he didnt make more effort to replace Clegg two years ago when we might have saved another 20 MPs.

  • Stephen Hesketh 18th May '15 - 7:13am

    Andrew 17th May ’15 – 9:59pm
    “Westmorland and Lonsdale used to be a strongly Tory seat, yet Tim Farron got 52% of the vote there (compared to 39% for Norman Lamb in Norfolk North). A social Liberal is quite capable of attracting Tory votes if people think he means what he says. In these dark times we need a leader who can attract votes from both left and right of the outmoded linear spectrum.”

    Absolutely right Andrew. We would be foolish to not to take advantage of Tim Farron’s formidable abilities as a campaigner. If he doesn’t ticks all the boxes no one does.

  • Bill le Breton 18th May '15 - 7:36am

    Last night Team Lamb advertised on Twitter for a cameraman to help him do videos. Oh dear. Here’s a tip Team Lamb, get your candidate to talk to his phone. The great prize for any campaign is authenticity. Sure he needs to talk and be seen to be talking, but we all want immediacy, we don’t want staged set ups and all that ponderous stuff. You are behind. You are the unfancied ‘horse’. Do different; be you.

    There, another free tip for Norman.

    The person who has had the greatest influence on the Lib Dems over the last decade has been David Laws. It was tragic that he didn’t stand in the last leadership election and doubly tragic that he isn’t standing here. Laws v Farron is the election the party MUST have if the winner is to have the unquestioned legitimacy to take the party forward.

    In the last campaign, Clegg was the Laws’ cypher but during that election, under attack from Huhne, Clegg trimmed eg on his real belief on the NHS. Lamb must have been influenced by Laws yet now we see him too trimming when facing the party electorate – but this time before he has even been put under any pressure.

    The party desperately needs Lamb to fight a good campaign based on his deepest beliefs and not what his campaign team tell him he must ‘say’.

    So Norman – stop what you are doing right now. Whatever it is. Get out your phone. Turn on video and ‘speak’, ‘explain’ about everything you have learned in life, in politics, in government. You only have a few weeks. This one chance. Don’t waste it. Don’t listen to political hacks who have just masterminded the greatest b8lls up in the history of UK campaigning.

  • David Evans 18th May '15 - 8:49am

    Eddie – Are making things up as you go along? I haven’t seen any comment from either Norman or Tim saying anything like “I support the EU pretty much regardless of what it does.” Nor have I seen any series of comments from either to support that view. I really do think that your post “The point is that those advocating the Liberal Democrats remain the party who champion the EU pretty much regardless like Farron and even Lamb are on the wrong side of history.” needs some evidence to support it. Otherwise it will seem to be much closer to mischief making within the party than a helpful addition to the debate. I look forward to reading your response.

  • The leadership might be temporary – and will almost certainly include both candidates to utilise a combination of their skills and energy. We don’t wish to burn out either of them – and they will have a huge task before them, even to be heard in the HoC. Out on the campaigns, they are well positioned to share the various territories which exist or develop. It’s a good thing that they have worked closely for many years.

  • Paul Kennedy,

    Thankyou for those two clips. I really hope everyone listens to/watches them. Norman Lamb apologises for MAKING the pledge. Tim Farron is described by his political opponent as a “man of total integrity”. And the question/prediction on QT (and the NUS President) has come to pass.

    Tim Farron expresses perfectly and in a straightforward way the difference between a manifesto promise and the tuition fee pledge, while pointing out that 64% of the Lib Dem manifesto was in the coalition agreement, which is a lot better than 0%… I found myself agreeing 100% with what he said..

    Personally I am slightly nervous that the current membership of the Liberal Democrats might include most of the tiny fraction of the British people who think breaking the pledge was somehow ok….

  • Farron still wants Clegg to play a major part. That photograph of him gazing adoringly up at Clegg does him no favours and will be used time and time again against him as were the ones against Milliband.

  • peter tyzack 18th May '15 - 10:19am

    we need a Leader who will appeal to the public, the would-be supporters, more so than to the anorak wearing members. So he that reaches out from the TV screen and grabs the viewer with his easily understood tones and good sense is the one we need.

  • peter tyzack 18th May '15 - 10:26am

    the point we all miss, at our peril(q.e.d.) is that the pollsters, the media and the bookies would all prefer a return to the two-party state.. (many of them would even prefer us out of EU as a first step to becoming a state of the US.!).. so in our discussions of any matter we should always be cautious about referencing things they have said. Their viewpoint is bound to be slanted to their benefit.

  • Anne,
    It looks more like the look of someone who is about to disagree with him to me… Or possibly “shall we stop discussing the depressing campaign out here in the rain and just go down the pub?”

    Farron is being suitably diplomatic about Nick Clegg and all the other MP’s

  • I agree that Farron’s fudging over Equal Marriage does him no favours though. It is his one weakness in my view, but I think he explains (in a waffly, embarrassed fashion) in the Guardian article why he voted as he did (in favour of the Act at most stages, in favour of some amendments protecting dissenters on religious grounds, and then abstaining on the final reading without those amendments) and regrets the final abstention. Personally I disagree strongly with his idea of letting registrars (who are public servants) refuse to marry same-sex partners… But we do allow individual doctors to refrain from conducting abortions, so it is not without precedent.

    Despite being a convinced humanist (and having a very close relative who is LGBT) it is not enough to put me off him

  • Neil Sandison 18th May '15 - 12:09pm

    I would like us to get back to the party we were under Charles Kennedy .Prepared to stand up on the big issues like the Iraq war .prepared to invest in education and say where the money was going to come from .committed to multilateral nuclear disarmament and supporting the UN and international bodies .pro European but arguing for radical reform to its institutions and making it more relevant to its citizens .
    So back to the future with a radical and progressive party neither left nor right but looking forward.

  • Malcolm Todd 18th May '15 - 12:49pm

    “This will appeal to ‘protest voters’ from Labour more than the man or woman in the street.”

    How peculiar — where on earth are these “protest voters from Labour” (whatever they are) when ordinary men and women are in the street? Are they perhaps men made of straw?

    I’d be a Farron supporter anyway, I suspect, on all sorts of grounds; but it’s the facts that he gets the issue over the tuition fee pledge, that he stuck to his guns and has continued to do so, and yet has never used it (as far as I am aware) to make even a “coded” attack (ridiculous phrase) on his many colleagues who didn’t that make my vote his to lose.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th May '15 - 1:15pm

    David Evans, OK I simplified it a bit, but it was not without malice. However if you want evidence I have the following statements:

    Norman Lamb: “Fifth, we are a proudly internationalist party and we strongly believe in the UK playing its full part in the EU.”

    Tim Farron: “we can already see Tory plans to bring back the snoopers’ charter, abolish the Human Rights Act, slash the welfare budget, undermine renewable energy and edge Britain out of Europe. Liberal Democrats oppose these policies wholeheartedly and we must make the case against them passionately and persuasively.”

    Nick Clegg: (during the leader’s question time): “I will, again shock horror, always argue that we remain part of the European Union”.

    I’ll try to be more careful with my phrases in future, but I see the Lib Dems last leader and the two candidates both saying that at the moment a belief in the EU is basically fundamental to the party. I don’t think it should be and this is what I am criticising.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th May '15 - 1:22pm

    Apologies, I simplified a bit, but it was not with malice. Not “not without malice”.

  • Julian Tisi 18th May '15 - 1:52pm

    I’ve been wavering up to now but I’ve now decided to go for Tim.

    An excellent article by the way, but to me in terms of character and values I’m happy with either. I don’t see either candidate lurching us one way or other – left or right. The differentiator to me is the question Peter Tyzack raises. Who is going to reach out to the public, to would-be supporters, not just politically engaged people. This is why I think it has to be Tim.

  • Andrew 17th May ’15 – 9:40pm …..And most important of all, Tim stuck to his pledge on tuition fees…. It was always in Norman Lamb’s power to stick to the pledge, so why did he not? So he could be a minister?….

    How is Tim’s stance on ‘same sex marriage, abortion, bedroom tax?….I’d suggest ‘mixed message’ to say the least…

  • Geoff Hinchliffe 18th May '15 - 3:17pm

    Surely the priority for consideration is “What do we see ourselves as standing for ?”. With that in mind , let me quote from part of the SLF’s e-mail of Friday 8th May :

    “In 2010, Liberal Democrat MPs were elected on a social liberal manifesto, in keeping with the party’s traditional, left-of-centre, radical, progressive stance, inherited from the Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell years.

    Yet during the 2010 parliament, the “Orange Bookers” – with unprecedented patronage and support from the leadership – were for the first time able to control the party’s direction. In yesterday’s election, the voters have had their first chance to deliver their verdict on this strategy. They have overwhelmingly rejected it, dealing the Liberal cause its worst result since 1970. We have lost most of our MPs and have a string of lost deposits to our name.

    Liberals need to turn back from this centrist blind alley and find their soul again.”

    When we are more certain of that, then we can decide the best spokesman for our purposes.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th May '15 - 4:36pm

    David Evans, found the more substantive quote I was looking for:

    On Murnaghan yesterday:

    TIM FARRON: That is a very important reason for the Liberal Democrats to exist and to thrive because someone needs to make the positive case for our membership of the European Union.

    As I said, I will be more careful in my quotes, but I don’t think I crossed a line by saying “pretty much regardless” or “nearly regardless (which is what I meant)”. I would have done if I just said “regardless”, but I knew that was wrong, so that is why I qualified it.

  • SIMON BANKS 18th May '15 - 4:51pm

    I too think it will be close. Tim Farron may lead clearly among the activists, but most members aren’t activists. The Liberals and then the Liberal Democrats have form in choosing the “safe”, moderate candidate over the more radical: Steel over Pardoe, then Clegg over Huhne. Besides, as Guy says, these are two strong candidates and I admire both.

    But I find Craig’s analysis of the likely campaign arguments of the two candidates a little questionable. Most Social Liberals, including no doubt Tim Farron, would happily sign up to every point Craig gives to Norman Lamb. Social Liberals are not even lukewarm about decentralising the state, for example, or empowering individuals. They just think these things are best done with the support of an effective, democratic state and that to pursue economic freedom with little care for reducing disparities of wealth is wrong – and disempowering to those near the bottom of the heap.

    Really I’m not bothered if we seem to be to the left of Labour or to the right. Left and right have limited validity and say nothing on civil liberties or the environment. But if we show convincing concern for mental health issues, say, or for people in poverty, and propose practical action, will that really turn off the man or woman in the street? In any case, our worst problem is that even the people who agree with 80% plus of our policies, whose values are essentially Liberal, don’t know what we stand for any more and most of them didn’t vote for us. The first and urgent duty of the new leadership is to win those people back. If we do that, we won’t crumble so easily in the face of the next clever Tory scare.

  • David Allen 18th May '15 - 4:58pm

    Eddie Sammon, that’s all very well but what you said was:

    “The point is that those advocating the Liberal Democrats remain the party who champion the EU pretty much regardless like Farron and even Lamb are on the wrong side of history.”

    None of your quotations show a Lib Dem politician championing the EU “pretty much regardless”. The only Lib Dem who went far too far in that direction was Clegg, in Clegg vs Farage. Not, from your quotations, either Lamb or Farron.

  • We’ve had a big influx of new members, many of whom are under 35 (at least half) and who seem more socially liberal and economically liberal than their older peers.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th May '15 - 5:20pm

    David Allen, if people think I have crossed a line then they can make a complaint. But as I said: we have one candidate saying we should “strongly believe” in the EU and another saying it ” is a very important reason for the Liberal Democrats to exist”.

    I described this as supporting the EU “pretty much regardless”. I fail to see where the big injustice is. I didn’t stick it in quotation marks and say they actually said it.

  • stuart lambert 18th May '15 - 5:22pm

    Pulling to the left – the populist move – would be calamitous to our prospects of regaining governmental credibility. If the election proved anything, it is that the notion the electorate’s political centre of gravity (the term Milliband used in his political vanity project) has shifted leftwards was utterly bogus. Quote polls and surveys all you like, but a Conservative majority and several million UKIP votes prove that the country remains comfortably anchored to the centre, and has a sizeable contingent that are rather right wing. We need to appeal to the sensible centre if we are to be anything but a small (read, irrelevant) protest party. Agree with this blog entirely.

  • At the moment I am inclined to go for Norman Lamb not least, so far, that of the two he’s the candidate least likely to drag religion into what we do.

  • Tim is an excellent communicator and will,I think,grow and mature, in the job.With only eight MPs, it will be awkward for him re dealing with Mr Clegg and Tim seems a nice person ,not the type to stab anyone in the back, or humiliate them.Mr Clegg has enormous talents and will be needed to try to keep us within the EU, in my opinion.
    I hesitate to say, but feel Norman had problems getting in to the tv debate on health,with Andy Burnham,a bit like Tristram Hunt.

  • Robert, let us keep our feet on the ground. We are now in for a 10 or even a 15 year haul. Norman Lamb will be 62, 67 and 72 respectively. Age is against him, and before you shout ageism I am older than he is. Tuition Fees are what did for the party 4 years ago and the public made up their mind following that. It will be thrown at us again if the leader voted for them, the public, the Labour Party and Green Party will have very long memories. There will be significant boundary amendments in the next year or so. Do not understand how angry the Conservatives were when we stopped them 3 years ago. They will happen this time and Lambs smallish majority will leave him not just vulnerable but highly vulnerable. We also need someone who will go down well in Scotland to get those 10 seats back as well as having the charisma and localism to be able to start rebuilding ourselves in the northern and Midland cities.
    With the greatest respect Norman Lamb does not appear to be that man.

  • David Allen 18th May '15 - 6:35pm

    Eddie, there’s a huge difference between being strongly pro-EU on the one hand, and being blindly in favour of everything the EU does on the other hand. The latter is what your “support pretty much regardless” remark implies. Personally, I think it would be disastrous to leave the EU, and yet I am very critical of many things the EU does. We need a leader who will not shrink from making the necessary criticisms. I don’t think you are right to imply that either Lamb or Farron is demonstrably failing to meet that need.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th May '15 - 6:41pm

    David and David, OK I see where I think we have got mixed up. I should have made it clear I was talking about EU membership. Of course I haven’t seen any of the candidates support what the EU does regardless. Both Farron and Lamb, and even Clegg have all criticised things that the EU has done in the past and some of the things it still does.

    Apologies for the misunderstanding.

  • Why not have the two of them ? Leader and Deputy of the party-whoever of them becomes leader-we need the talents of both and there have been many successful political double acts. By the way for all you pessimists out there, there is no reason to be anything other than hopeful. the future of our party is in our hands.

  • First, the mis-characterisation of Tim as some left-wing nut, who is just for the angry Labour voter really undermines a post which otherwise poses an important question. When it comes to it, (other than his voting on religious grounds), TIm has been one of our most pragmatic MPs; and just because he does not speak with a calm, middle class, southern accent, does not change that.

    Secondly, following on from that point, whilst both these men are decent people and could make good leaders, I think the party needs a full break with the past five years. Norman represents too much of the same, whereas TIm offers something different, someone who can help us build our way back up and keep us motivated.

  • http://backnorman.co.uk/why/

    still no mention whatsoever of the Environment or climate change. Evidently not one of Norman Lamb’s priorities….

    Leaving aside the actual importance of this area of policy to our future, the fact is that the Greens are currently the biggest threat to the revival (and perhaps survival) of the Liberal Democrats, so political expediency says that we need strong environmental policies

  • Andrew 19th May ’15 – 1:20am
    “…still no mention whatsoever of the Environment or climate change. Evidently not one of Norman Lamb’s priorities….”

    Yes this is odd. Norman Lamb’s intention to stand for the leadership was first flagged in the media some months ago. One might have expected him to have oven this area of key Liberal Democrat policy some thought.

    If you are for him or against him it must be difficult to divine what his priorities are beyond the further promotion of Norman Lamb. I watched him interviewed on The Sunday Politics by Andrew Neil. By the standards of a Neil interview this was a soft and easy spot giving Norman Lamb a free chance to state his views and what made him different from his opponent. He repeatedly refused to do this, got side-tracked into telling a rambling tale about someone he had helped when he was a minister and seemed all presentation with very little substance.

    If people are to take Norman Lamb seriously in this leadership election he needs to change more than his glasses, although I agree with Jonathan Calder that the pair he was wearing in the TV studio lighting cast long dark slightly sinister shadows across his face. A trivial matter of personal appearance I know but very distracting for those in the audience who had managed to stay awake.

  • Paul Rickett 23rd May '15 - 4:47pm

    In my view, for what it’s worth, the problem isn’t about being/becoming more left or right-wing per se. What did for the LibDems at the election was a much more fundamental issue of existential confusion in voters’ minds: what is the actual point of the LibDems? Speaking from a Scottish perspective, I feel this is something the SNP has clearly understood in its own context, with predictable results. The whole discourse on whether the SNP was to the left of Labour or the LibDems stuck me as a very English perspective that was by and large an irrelevancy up here: people felt, rightly or wrongly, that a vote for the SNP was to say something important about their own highly diverse sense of identity, values and aspirations.

    The LibDems need to rebuild on a UK-wide stage on the basis of a similar agenda: what is Liberalism and how does it connect to voters’ values, aspirations and own sense of themselves? Trying to spot a little bit of putative vacant political terrain to the left or right on which to pitch a tent is going to get us nowhere now. We need to clearly articulate to ourselves who we are and how we embody and advance the Liberal tradition and then articulate this, the point of our existence, clearly and coherently to the outside world. Specific policies need to flow out of this, otherwise we risk putting the cart before the horse. After 5 years of coalition no one, maybe ourselves included sometimes, has a clear sense of our fundamental identity and what that means, to us or to them. For that reason I feel supporting a ‘continuity’ candidate for leader would be a mistake.

    This form of existential crisis is exactly the same one as faces Labour now, with exactly the same irrelevant chatter about pitching to the right or left. We however do have one advantage amidst our current difficulties: Labour has to try to resurrect a largely moribund creed of socialism, we have the inheritance of a more vibrant and potentially relevant tradition of Liberalism to build on – if only we can find a way of articulating what that is in the present and near future!

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