Tag Archives: leadership election 2017

Interesting use of language, Vince

Our “almost leader”, Vince Cable is certainly getting himself noticed this week.

He had the right wing press spluttering with outrage with this comparison in a New Statesman interview:

So how did he react to his former cabinet colleague Theresa May condemning “citizens of nowhere” in her Conservative conference speech last year?

“I thought that particular phrase was quite evil. It could’ve been taken out of Mein Kampf,” he replies. “I think that’s where it came from, wasn’t it? ‘Rootless cosmopolitans’? It was out of character for her.”

It’s not Godwin’s Law if it’s true, now, is it?

He’s been talking to Business Insider too. I was particularly interested in this turn of phrase when discussing potential coalitions. He’s holding to the line we fought the election on – no coalitions. But look at this:

“We are not remotely contemplating coalition with the current Labour Party or with the Conservatives,” he told BI.

“We’re in a fundamentally different place on the biggest issues of the day of which Brexit is the most important.  When you’re in fundamental disagreement you can’t meaningfully talk about coalition.”

Note that he said “the current Labour Party” with no such qualification for the Conservatives.

It sounds like it might be different if the Labour Party were to rediscover its sense of internationalism and pro-Europeanism. It seems like he’s slamming the door in the Tories’ faces and throwing away the key but where Labour are concerned, he’s shoving the key at the bottom of his sock drawer just in case we should need it one day.

Those of us for whom the words “centre ground”cause our hearts to sink will also be pleased with this:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 18 Comments

A 250 year old box

Sir Robert Walpole (Whig 1721-1742) was the first prime minister in the modern sense. Ever since major UK parties have always had one leader. But Walpole and his successors, whether prime ministers or opposition leaders, were not subject to the relentless pressure of 24/365 broadcast news until the mid-1990s. Perhaps John Major (1990-97) was the first to suffer. Since Major’s day media outlets have multiplied, coverage has become shallower, more sensationalised, more knee-jerk. Meanwhile social media abounds, analysing what’s been said (and sometimes, what’s not been) syllable by syllable. Today, the media demands on any party leader are immense and even, perhaps, inhumane.

Does this matter to the Liberal Democrats? It does. We’re looking for a new leader. Tim Farron was eviscerated by the media for his personal and religious beliefs, diverting him from electoral themes to the detriment of us all. And it’s not only a matter of inquisitional pressure, it’s time pressure too. Being ready to respond at – almost – any hour of the day or night to the media’s agenda and external events strains family relationships and even health It also deprives a leader of time to manage the party, to think and to recharge.

We are now choosing a new leader who will be under the same pressures. We have to accept that within the parliamentary party we don’t have a superstar capable of resisting these pressures and conveying our appeal to the full-spectrum electorate. We must consider if it is reasonable to subject our choice to such demands. If not, how we can ameliorate the problem while still being well led. We should think outside the box that has existed since Walpole. We should ask whether a single leader is appropriate in today’s environment. We should consider if two heads are better than one. 

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Well that didn’t take long! Vince answers the Brexit, freedom of movement and single market questions

Vince Cable is likely to be the sole nominee for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats. It is good to see, though, that he’s behaving like he is in a contest. He’s aware of what’s on the minds of members and activists  and responds accordingly. People had raised concerns about his position on freedom of movement and the single market and he answers them here in a pragmatic and straightforward way. He also explicitly says that Brexit could be avoided if we are willing to consider some changes to the status quo.

What’s also interesting is the acknowledgement that the party decides policy. The leader can put their view forward, but it’s the party members who are in the driving seat. If he carries that philosophy through, he’ll probably be the first to have managed it, so good luck to him.

Anyway, here is his statement in full. I found it reassuring especially because it goes some way to speaking to the Leave voters whose consent we would need to turn this thing around. I hope he will come forward with a liberal vision to address the concerns which drove them to vote for Leave. Poor housing, low pay, stretched public services can all be fixed without leaving the EU. In fact, they can probably only be fixed without leaving the EU.

Anyway, here is Vince’s statement in full.

Since declaring my intention to stand for the Liberal Democrat leadership I have been overwhelmed by messages of support. In the strong liberal tradition I have also received a great many questions about my vision for the country and the party. The first and most immediate issue on all our minds is the UK’s future relationship with the European Union, and I therefore welcome the very direct questions from party members on this subject.

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Party members question Vince Cable on Brexit, freedom of movement and single market

It now appears that Vince Cable will be unopposed in the upcoming party leadership election, and so party members will not receive the opportunity to quiz him at hustings on his record and policy views>

Many of us within the party are concerned by this. We believe that in a democratic party, it is imperative that the leader receive proper scrutiny. We need to know that the candidate is up to the job. The leader of the party must be able to deal with uncomfortable questions.  As we’ve seen in the recent election campaign, the inability to give a straight answer to a simple question can be fatal to a leader.

The party leader must also be able to speak for the party and to defend party policy, especially when it comes to the most important issues of the day. In particular, many people have expressed concern about Vince’s statements to the New Statesman calling for an end to single market membership and freedom of movement, which appear to go against both party policy and the party’s constitution.

>For that reason, a number of us have put together an open letter to Vince Cable, the full text of which can be found here. This letter has been signed so far by hundreds of party members, including a substantial number of parliamentary candidates, councillors, and local party exec members. These are the people on whose support a new leader will need to rely, and so those people in turn need to know that the new leader is worthy of such support.

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Will it be a hustings or a Meet the New Leader event?

Sal Brinton has explained that:

There will be a series of official Leadership hustings around the country (they are currently being arranged, so watch out for details near you), as well as some online or streamed events. In the last Leadership Election these hustings were very popular, as well as the SAOs who may also have social media Q&As with the candidates.In the event that there is only one nominated candidate we will discuss with them continuing with some of these dates as Meet the New Leader events.

The Social Liberal Forum has been quick off the mark. Our annual conference this year will be held on Saturday 15th July in London.

We had already rearranged the programme to include a slot for a hustings, and this will become a ‘Meet the New Leader’ event if there is only one candidate.  The latter seems the most likely outcome at the moment, but not all MPs have declared whether they are in or out, and someone may yet put their name forward to ensure a contest. We will know for sure by next Wednesday.

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There are worse things than a coronation for Vince

Early this morning, I got an email from Ed Davey. He asked if he could send us a post for publication late afternoon, early evening.

“Of course!” I replied. And then I went into a brief explanation of how we were going to be neutral in the leadership contest, and how we would be very even-handed between the candidates. I concluded, flippantly, that I was just randomly mentioning that for no apparent reason.

I knew that there was a pretty strong expectation that Ed would stand and that some serious work had been done on putting a campaign together.

I was really looking forward to a contest. For once, I was going  into a leadership election with no idea who I was going to support. It looked like it was going to be a contest between two liberal heavyweights. Instinctively, I’d veer towards Vince, but he’d been a bit too accepting of Brexit for my liking last Summer – a line he has significantly softened in recent months, even before the election was a twinkle in Theresa May’s eye.

So when Ed’s article arrived at lunchtime, I sat open-mouthed, reading it over and over to make sure I’d understood it right. And I blubbed a bit, because I’m way too soft, as he talked about his family and wanting to be there for them. I thought some of the ideas he had for the future of the party were bang on:

And to be a winning party of reform, we must start telling the British people who Liberal Democrats are, and what we stand for. And not simply what and who we are against.

We must also be super-ambitious – just like radical centrists in Canada, France and The Netherlands. If they can win from third place – or from “no place” like Macron – why can’t we?

And in answering that question, we need to be self-critical. While we’ve had some success in recent times – not least with the amazing rise in membership – our election defeats have been crushingly bad.

We need to reflect why – and then ensure our party is fit-for-purpose – able to provide the platforms for future winning campaigns.  We owe it to the huge number of amazing campaigners in our party, who have worked their socks off, and not yet seen us win.

So, I’m sad he’s not standing. But, do you know what? I’m bloody thrilled that he’s one of our MPs. We may only have a dozen, but they are a quality bunch. A Golden Dozen, you might say. We have real expertise on the economy, on equalities, on business, on science, on rural affairs, on climate change, on health in our little bit of the Commons. We probably punch above the Labour and Conservative Party’s weight as well as our own. 

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Ed Davey MP writes….My family, my party

Last weekend I went glamping. with Emily and our children, John and Ellie. This luxury form of camping was my birthday present to my super-patient wife, and our first proper time to reflect together after the General Election.

And to cut to the chase, I’ve come back to Westminster more determined than ever to campaign hard for the party Emily and I both love – but not to campaign to lead the party at this moment.

When Tim resigned, I assumed Jo would go for it, and I would have supported her. She gave understandable reasons why she didn’t – so here are my reasons, some similar to Jo’s.

Emily and I met through the party. I was chairing a Housing Policy Working Group and she was a member, as a social housing lawyer. What could be more romantic?

Our joy this weekend was seeing our two children play together. And when you understand that John (aged 9) is severely disabled, you will appreciate that seeing our 3 year old daughter make him laugh is quite special.

And if it helps explain my decision not to run just a little more, please remember that my father died when I was 4 and my mother when I was 15. Being there for my children over the next few crucial years and to see those special moments is my personal priority.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 79 Comments
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