Opinion: Verdict from the first Mayoral Hustings – it’s a two horse race

Merton Lib Dems Mayoral candidate hustings
Photo: Mayorwatch. See also @mayorwatch‘s live tweets from last night’s event.

Merton Liberal Democrats held the first hustings of the London Mayoral selection last night with all four candidates addressing an audience from Merton and surrounding constituencies.

I had never met or heard any of them before but the one speech I was expecting to enjoy was Lembit’s. I thought that I would be drawn to him despite myself but the reality was frankly disappointing. He was the most ideological, describing himself as a ‘left libertarian’ but his policy ideas on supporting small business and renting surplus land to developers somehow failed to inspire.

He made much of his long experience at senior levels in the Party, his experience at grassroots campaigning and ability to take on Ken and Boris (did he really describe them as friends?) but there were too many lame jokes and too much talking about himself.

I expected to end up thinking, “Yes it all sounds great but don’t forget about all the reality TV shows and interesting love life,” but in the end I don’t think I would have voted for him even if he hadn’t got all of those issues.

Then there was Brian Haley. Most of the time he was pretty unimpressive, low-key and without a compelling narrative about why he should be candidate. His answers to policy questions were poor – I really think we need better answers on crime than “more bobbies on the beat” and he gave a bizarre answer on council tax in that he favoured an “individual tax but not the poll tax”.

I would have written Brian Haley off completely but for his final answer when all the candidates were asked about their perceived weakness, in his case being his having been in Labour for so many years. His passionate denunciation of Labour for happily keeping people in poverty and on benefits so they would vote for them was by far the best speech of the evening. His comments about why so many inner London Boroughs have had 40 years of Labour control, 13 years of Labour Government and still have some of the worst housing in Europe was spot on. If Brian H can keep up this level of passion and improve his policy knowledge then I think he would be a real contender for our Mayoral candidate in 2016.

Paddick and Tuffrey were streets ahead of the other two. Both gave good speeches with plenty of soundbites which will sound great in the campaign proper.

Mike’s plan to build 360,000 houses on surplus publicly owned land sounded convincing and both he and Brian talked convincingly about the need to have an integrated campaign involving the Mayoral Candidate/GLA Constituency and List candidates with Mike emphasizing the need to focus on 2014 as well. Both had paid local members the compliment of briefing themselves about local issues with Mike being the only candidate to pick up on the fact that the meeting was in one of one of our target wards. Brian frankly admitted that he was very new to politics when he last stood and had learnt a huge number of lessons since then.

Brian Paddick naturally talked about his media profile (given a boost by the fact that as people went into the meeting they passed Brian being interviewed live on C4 News) and Mike about his detailed knowledge of the GLA, the Mayor’s responsibilities and years of observing Ken and Boris and calling them to account. Both agreed that Ken is tired (and not always truthful) and Boris has a low attention span and doesn’t do detail and that these offered plenty of scope for our candidate.

So who am I going to give my first preference to? – I still haven’t decided. My head says that Mike’s ability to forensically demolish the other two would be a superb asset. My heart says that Brian Paddick is a charismatic figure who comes across as a leader. His critics say Brian lost badly last time but then show me the Lib Dem who hasn’t lost elections.

When I went to tell the vicar whose church we were using that we had finished, he had a parishioner with him who asked what the TV van was for. I said they were interviewing Brian Paddick. “Oh I like him; he’s an impressive man,’ she said. Can we convert that into votes – and would she feel the same way if she saw Mike, is a key question for me.

Whichever one I and other London members go for, we can be pleased to have two candidates who could both present our Party so well.

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40 Comments

  • Daniel Henry 21st Jul '11 - 4:30pm

    Nice report on the hustings. I’m not a Londoner myself but I’ve enjoyed reading Mike and Brian’s campaigns on LDV.

    On a side note:
    “[Brian Haley] gave a bizarre answer on council tax in that he favoured an “individual tax but not the poll tax”.”

    Isn’t replacing the flat rate council tax with a local income tax a Lib Dem policy?

  • On the 18th June when it was announced that Mike was standing Simon posted ‘good’. Then on 7th July when Mike posted on land he posted

    Mike – excellent article. of course we should make more use of land already in public ownership.

    From these comments I would assume that this poster was a supporter of Mike Tuffrey. To really understand what happened last night we need to refer to someone who has not previously made a comment and could be seen as unbiased. Fortunately a councillor who is not associated with any campaign to my knowledge, Lester Holloway, was present and did a write up of the event. This placed Lembit in first position.

    http://lesterholloway.blogspot.com/

    In this case why is there an article primarily targeted at attacking Lembit ?

    I believe that Lembit is the man to beat in this election and put up a very good performance last night.

    This election is an STV election so there is no point in using a Focus style ‘it’s a two horse race – Lembit can’t win here’. With STV you vote for who you want – so it is a four horse race. I hope that the supporters of Brian Haley will vote for him first and Lembit second.

    The Lembit campaign is making every attempt to be 100% positive since we will all need to support the Liberal Democrat who wins, and I hope that we will see a positive campaign from all parties.

    Ed Joyce
    Lembit4London

  • Good and accurate review Simon. And I’ld agree that Tuffrey and particularly Paddick clearly made the better impression. The most pleasing thing to hear was how both of them see the priority of the Mayoral campaign being maximising our vote for the GLA list, which is where our success should be measured. Haley and Opik both had their moments, but seemed to think Wandsworth and Merton were the same borough!

  • Lester Holloway 21st Jul '11 - 7:18pm

    I was there, and can’t agree that Brian Paddick and Mike Tuffery were “streets ahead” of Lembit Opik. I’m a Lembit-sceptic, but on both policy and personality I had Lembit marginally ahead of the field. Wrote about it here: http://lesterholloway.blogspot.com/2011/07/im-celebrity-no-i-am.html

  • I came to the same conclusion as Ed Joyce and Lester Holloway when I got to the word ‘McGrath’ at the top of the article.

  • Grammar Police 21st Jul '11 - 8:27pm

    I’m a floating voter in this, but I find it pretty hilarious and depressing (by degrees) every time Ed Joyce pops up to criticise anything that is even vaguely critical of Lembit.

    It’s really not a good strategy.

    A non-party opinion of the hustings can be seen here: http://www.mayorwatch.co.uk/tuffrey-or-paddick-the-choice-facing-london-liberal-democrats/201115936

    Sorry Ed, but it’s also critical of Lembit.

  • Simon McGrath 21st Jul '11 - 8:32pm

    @Ed – I said ‘good’ because I was glad that someone of Mike’s calibre was standing. I said Mike’s article was excellent because i agreed with it!

    I was never likely to vote for Lembit because I think he would be an embarrassment. I did think, as I said in the article he would put up a barnstorming performance which he failed to do.

    You seem to have failed to understand the point of my article – it was to give an account of the meeting as I saw it, not to provide a neutral piece of journalism.

    I am interested that Lester sees it so differently – I guess we will see when the votes are counted who is right.

    There was someone as the meeting who is not a supporter of any candidate and that is Martin Hoscik from Mayorwatch. Here is his account of the meeting:

    http://www.mayorwatch.co.uk/tuffrey-or-paddick-the-choice-facing-london-liberal-democrats/201115936

  • paul barker 21st Jul '11 - 9:34pm

    I can see 2 big factors dividing the Candidates-
    Profile, its a 2 horse race on this with Lembit in the lead & Brian P in 2nd place.
    The effect on the Voters image of The Libdems. On this its a 1 horse race. We are seen as White & Middle Class.
    Brian Haley as a Libdem candidate for Mayor would be a shock for a lot of Voters & would get us a lot of Free Publicity.

  • “A referendum on a 24 hour tube service”

    Is that the policy now? It gets even more bizarre. What is the question to be voted on

    FWIW Lembit’s website states:
    “Lembit will create a 24 [hour – sic] tube service, which will cost a bit more but be a lot less hassle for London’s social classes.”

    So it is a bit behind the times. Mind you when pressed on this he (or rather his voice-pieces) say he is looking at the idea and if its not workable he’ll drop it.

  • Martin Hoscik has been proposed as a credible source for this debate yet on June 3rd he printed a very negative view of Lembit. I have personally viewed him as one of Lembit’s most vociferous critics. I suggest that his opinion is not unbiased. What has happened here is that people who have previously praised Mike or criticised Lembit have produced pieces that are very critical of Lembit. If you read their articles they seem to both admit that they were hostile to him from the outset.

    One unbiased attendee has in contrast put Lembit top.

    Lembit has both detractors and supporters – this is a campaign and people are entitled to attack Lembit. These commentators were, however, not unbiased when they went into the hustings and their opinions should be read in that light.

    Ed Joyce

  • Simon McGrath 21st Jul '11 - 11:01pm

    Rather bizarrely Lembit is complaining on Twitter: “I am amazed at your comments Simon McGrath.Why did you chair last night’s meeting given that,in your own words, you were already against me?”

    The meeting was in fact Chaired by Cllr Mary Jane Jeanes. We share a strong belief in Liberal Democracy but are not otherwise alike. I would not have Chaired the meeting, given that I had made sceptical comments about lembit on the Members Forum of LDV.

  • Brian Paddick 22nd Jul '11 - 12:26am

    From a candidate’s perspective, I found it a difficult hustings. The audience were pretty stoney-faced during the debate so it was difficult to read who was getting a positive reaction. The chair, Cllr Mary Jane Jeanes, quite rightly, avoided my attempts to make-eye contact with her or to speak to her before the debate. I am sure she adopted the same approach with the other candidates. She was absolutely neutral and detached. Very professionally done, if slightly unnerving from a candidate’s viewpoint! I like to be friendly but she wasn’t having any of it! Whether people’s opinions on the debate are neutral and detached is another question. The most important thing for me is that it is a fair contest and I felt that the first hustings were fair to all candidates.

  • Some deluded people here. Let’s stop pretending, we all know that the London Mayoral election will indeed be “a two horse race” – Boris Johnson versus Ken Livingstone.

    http://cuttingedgeuk.proboards.com/index.cgi

  • Just what the party needs – a rancorous contest to select a candidate for an election in which getting more than 10% of the vote will be judged a success …

  • Brian Paddick 22nd Jul '11 - 9:28am

    Ivan you are so wrong! I debated recently with Ken Livingstone on the Politics Show and he is very tired and on that occasion, he was savaged by the presenter with no come-back. I really think he is past his sell-by date and there is a real opportunity for the Lib Dem candidate to score significant runs off Livingstone. Boris Johnson now has a (poor) record that he can be attacked on, so the same applies there. I really think there is all to play for this time around, provided we choose the right candidate.

  • I wasn’t at the hustings but from what I’ve heard from Brian (P), Mike and Lembit so far I’m inclined to agree it’s between Mike and Brian P. I haven’t yet heard much from Brian H – time for an LDV guest spot methinks? – but I’m glad there’s a new face running and hope he takes the opportunity to raise his profile.

    Lembit hasn’t done too badly and some of his policy proposals are interesting (I really like the idea that we should back a 24hr tube referendum!), but I think his campaign manager would help his candidate more by keeping a lower profile as I don’t think he’s helping at the moment…

    Oh, and thanks Brian for a candidates-eye view of the hustings – I’m glad the audience were a bit unnerving, it’s probably good practise for whichever of you proceeds to the campaign proper 😉

  • Kirsten de Keyser 22nd Jul '11 - 11:40am

    I must, somewhat reluctantly, agree with Brian Paddick.
    Nothing to do with Brian and everything to do with Ken and Boris.

    I do like Ken, but he doesn’t really want to be Mayor again.
    Ken’s merely standing to avenge his previous loss to Boris, which he still thinks is Gordon’s fault.
    Oh, what a tangled web they weave.

    It’s impossible to actively dislike Boris, but he’s only standing for a bit of a laugh and to keep himself in the public eye until he can replace Call-me-Dave.

    So everything to play for here.
    Lembit is our Boris, Mike is our Ken, Brian H is last election’s Brian P and Brian P is our media darling.

    Hacks like Brian P so, if current perceptions of media influence is anything to go by, this could actually get interesting.

  • Liberal Neil 22nd Jul '11 - 11:41am

    @Ed Joyce “When in hole …”

  • “I think his campaign manager would help his candidate more by keeping a lower profile”

    His campaign manager is the campaign. Look at Lembits website – all written in the third person, one blog entry a month, his facebook page has statements about how the councillors and activists behind him hope to encourage the party to adopt a small state low taxation agenda (a la Mark Littlewood?)

    Postings on this site are only ever done by his supporters – unlike Brian and Mike who post things themselves. I wonder if Lembit’s heart is really in this or has he been talked into it by people he likes and now doesn’t have the heart to let them down.

    Or is Ed Joyce, like Eric Morecambe, working him with his foot 🙂

  • Trenchant criticism of the Opik campaign claims from a very senior Welsh Lib Dem
    http://peterblack.blogspot.com/2011/07/lembit-opik-and-rewriting-of-history.html

    It is in my experience very very rare indeed for Peter to make such strong public criticisms of a fellow Lib Dem.

  • I’m a Labour supporter, but I think that Brian Paddick deserved to win in 2008. He ran a good campaign, came across as a mature and sensible candidate, and most of all, he had served London well for about 30 years. Yet he gained only 9.8% of the first votes at a time when Liberal Democrats weren’t considered toxic. What hope is there for a Liberal Democrat in the present climate? Most of those who support this coalition will vote for Johnson, those who don’t will vote for Ken, even though he does look tired. I think Labour should have chosen Oona King, but I repeat that this will again be a two-horse race. Despite this being the election of an individual, too many people are too tribal to vote for the best candidate rather than a party.

    I certainly don’t find it “impossible to actively dislike Boris”; quite the contrary, I think he’s extremely unpleasant. We’re talking about an arrogant mouthy Bullingdon boy who called black people “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”, and who announced that the phone hacking scandal was just “codswallop”and a Labour plot. He’s been sacked twice for lying, he’s a serial adulterer, and even a looter from the home of Tariq Aziz in Iraq. Johnson is lazy, and he farmed out most of his responsibilities to deputies (where the customary Tory sleaze reared its head with some credit card fraud) so that he can be paid “chicken feed” – £250,000 a year – for writing a rubbish column in ‘The Daily Telegraph’. What an insensitive remark that must have seemed to those struggling to get by on frozen wages (if they have a job at all), with rising fuel bills and Osborne’s VAT ‘bombshell’. If Johnson thinks that the UK voters will want him (another out-of-touch and out-of-his-depth toff) when the Cameron nightmare is over, he can think again.

  • Ivan White, don’t forget that Boris once conspired with Darius Guppy to get a journalist beaten up, it’s all on tape.

    Ken’s not a particularly nice human being either.

  • dom hannigan 22nd Jul '11 - 9:45pm

    Fascinating development tonight

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2011/07/22/lembit-opik-apologises-for-blaming-election-loss-on-mick-bates-assault-91466-29103367/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

    Presumably Ed joyce will now withdraw the comment he made on this post:
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-why-you-should-be-taking-lembit-opik-seriously-24358.html

    and in particular the following comment:

    “Lembit’s issues in Montgomery were linked to a problem between the Welsh Assembly Member and a paramedic.I don’t blame Mick Bates entirely, there are demographic issues, but it was very unhelpful that he got into an ‘unfortunate drunken fracas with a paramedic in Cardiff’. Now I understand he is to be ‘expelled from the party’.”

    Presume Lembit will be distancing himself from these comments also – while i take his word that he had not seen the leaflet blaming the loss of montgomeryshire on mick bates, these previous comments rather suggest that blaming mick was a line that had been developed for the campaign as a whole.

  • This all seems evidence for my theory that this is the campaign of Lembit’s friends rather than Lembit.

    I’ve put things in leaflets that the candidate hasn’t seen and approved. But not on a major and fundamental issue which is highly controversial.

    The “blame Mick” argument was first advanced a few months back – but it seemed that Ed as its principal advocate was completely unaware that Mick had signed Lembit’s nomination paper- is initial response was to ask me it that was hearsay. I thought then that a competent campaign manager should have known this! He also promised a full answer which has never been forthcoming in public (though has been expanded on in the members forum.

    There is also the issue of the Lembit Teams closeness to Liberal Vision – certainly the small state, low tax ideas that Lembit’s team are keen to use his campaign to promote are very similar to those of that group. It would be good to hear Lembit’s views on that approach and the analgous views advanced by Mark Littlewood (who I find it hard to believe isn’t still involved with Liberal Vision-istas – on this forum a few weeks ago).

  • Simon McGrath 23rd Jul '11 - 4:08pm

    “There is also the issue of the Lembit Teams closeness to Liberal Vision – certainly the small state, low tax ideas that Lembit’s team are keen to use his campaign to promote are very similar to those of that group.”

    Liberal Vision are usually not shy in saying who they support so I suspect their silence on who they support is telling.
    I actually haven’t seen any sign that Lembit is using the campaign to promote “the small state, low tax ideas” – it doesn’t reach that level of coherence.

    I have put the candidates manifestos on Scribd for members outside London who might be interested:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/60713785/ldmayormanifestos2011

  • Simon – I don’t know about Lembit but the people behind him clearly have that agenda.

    See:
    “The councillors and activists behind the Lembit 4 London campaign see him as having the deepest commitment to freedom of any credible candidate. Freedom is at the heart of our campaign. We hope to encourage the Liberal Democrats and Londoners to adopt lower taxation, a smaller state and more personal freedom as key principles in a policy agenda”
    From Lembit’s facebook page.

    He needs to be clear whether he, or his supporters, are setting his campaign themes.

    Thanks for the manifestos – I assumed that the bit Lembit now disowns was a flyer dished out at the hustings. If the candidate didn’t approve their manifesto sent out to all voters then they are dangerously disconnected from their campaign.

  • Simon McGrath 23rd Jul '11 - 10:10pm

    Hywel, thanks for the quotes. Personally I don’t have any problems with most of that ( although as always the devil is in the detail) and I am puzzled by why he hasn’t put that on his manifesto or website.

    Interestingly in the article Stephen tall has today about the election he links to a 2008 piece about lembits presidential campaign, there are some pretty critical quotes from mark little wood about him.

  • David Parkes 23rd Jul '11 - 10:13pm

    I’d remind readers that this piece was filed under “opinion” Not news. So whether you agree or disagree, Simon is under no obligation to provide an unbiased account of the event, only to honestly reflect his own feelings.

    Personally I wasn’t at the hustling and I’m not a Londoner, but I’ve been impressed with what I’ve heard from Mike Tuffrey he seems to be a master of detail and yet someone who can communicate his point in a manner that’s easy to digest. His calm, less confrontational manner will contrast with the aggression of Red Ken, and his clear business-like approach will set him apart from Boris Johnson’s buffoonery.

    These are of course just my own opinions, which you are free to consider or ignore at your leisure.

  • @Andy – I agree he’s not the typical type. But I think he’s allowing himself to be used in that way. The comments I quoted above from his Facebook page are nearly identical to the “what do you hope to achieve” bit on the Liberal Vision website.

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