What do I want from our new Leader?

There will be those of our readers who have made a decision in favour of #EdForLeader or #JoinJo, but for many, especially the newer ones, they may still be deciding. Here’s one member’s criteria for making his mind up, which may give you some more things to think about…

So we are to have a contested Leadership election this time. Given that both (at the time of writing) declared Candidates come from similar parts of the party and there is not much to choose between them on major policy issues (and that in our Party Policy is not the sole preserve of the Leader), how should we decide between them?

Before asking what I want from our Leader, I want to start be saying what I don’t want.

I don’t want someone who will try to micro-manage the Party. The day to day managing functions are done by the President (currently Sal Brinton but, coincidentally, we are due an election of a new President in the autumn) and the Chief Executive (Nick Harvey, appointed by Federal Board). Whoever the new leader will have input into running the Party but should not get too involved.

I don’t want a Leader that will launch brave new policy initiative without consultation with Conference and the Federal Policy Committee. One of the hallmarks that differentiate us from other parties is that Policy really is decided by Conference. We often amend (and occasionally reject) policy ideas that come to us from FPC, some policies come from ordinary members via Local Parties, Regions, AO or even just 10 like-minded members proposing a policy members. While a leader must lead, they can only lead in the general direction that the Party wants to go.

So, given we are still in opposition and only have a relatively small Parliamentary presence, what do I want from our next Leader?

I want a leader who can take our message to wider audience; I want a leader who will stand out from the crowd; I want a leader who commands their brief and can deal with the hard questions; I want a leader who will not get too tied up with the goings on in Westminster but will be out talking to people (members & non-members) across the country; most of all, I want a leader who can inspire us and make us proud to campaign hard for the Party.

I realise that it is virtually impossible to get all the qualities I want in one person, indeed each of the three leaders in the nine years I have been in the Party has had some, but not all, of these qualities, but it is a starting point for helping me choose who to vote for when the ballot opens in June.

* Leon Duveen is a Liberal Democrat activist in Worksop, Nottinghamshire

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22 Comments

  • John Marriott 3rd Jun '19 - 8:53am

    Having a safe parliamentary seat might be a good start. However, looking at recent events and if some Opinion Polls are to be believed, is there such a thing any more?

  • It’s another sign of our flawed electoral system that we might even consider majority size when deciding on a leader, but in this case both candidates have similarly sized majorities in seats they won back, so shouldn’t a factor this time. Of course being leader means extra attacks and extra incentives for the challenging party to unseat you, but hopefully the extra profile compensates somewhat.

    None of our MPs get to take a back seat and all have a lot to offer, so I want a leader that can bring together all of the talent, but being able to stand out themselves. I am fed up with people joking that they don’t know who our leader is this week.

  • Mike Jamieson 3rd Jun '19 - 9:21am

    As a newly converted lib dem supporter , I am incredibly disappointed with VCs decision NOT to attend meetings with the US president , smacks of Corbynism!
    BIG MISTAKE VINCE!

  • nigel hunter 3rd Jun '19 - 9:22am

    One who is good on tv and the media in selling the party and policies One who can speak with passion on the media and in front of groups, a salesman for the party. A Charles Kennedy type of person who comes across as human

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Jun '19 - 9:42am

    I want a leader who will confront the extent of poverty and deprivation in this country and say that this must be put right, and that the attitudes of indifference or callousness which have been evident in the present Government must be condemned. I see that the work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd plans to lodge a formal complaint with the UN about the damning report on austerity in Britain by the rapporteur Philip Alston. We need a statement from our party supporting the Alston report and the remedial actions Professor Alston recommends, which are much in line with our party thinking and policies. At the present juncture our deputy leader Jo would be best placed to make such a statement, but I trust both candidates would be in favour of it.

  • Yeovil Yokel 3rd Jun '19 - 10:55am

    In today’s febrile political atmosphere I want a leader who the wider public feel they can trust.

  • Completely agree with Katharine.

    Whilst both candidates represent well heeled suburban middle class constituencies (not their fault of course) it would help if the both did what I remember Paddy doing and get out and about to see the less prosperous bits (of which there are many) of this country. Either would be most welcome to visit Foodbanks to see what the real world is really like.

    As for Amber Rudd, a bit of a cold fish and a very poor legacy at the Home Office. A kind of Theresa May Mark 2 sitting on a wafer thin majority at Hastings – another place for the new Leader to visit.

    Hastings Foodbank | Helping Local People in Crisis
    https://hastings.foodbank.org.uk/
    Hastings Foodbank. Helping local people in crisis. Learn more. 87,453. meals distributed in 2018. Opened in 2012.

    Foodbank in Hastings sees massive increase in demand – Hastings …
    https://www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/…/foodbank-in-hastings-sees-massive-increase-in-… 18 Sep 2017 – Demand for Hastings Foodbank has seen a massive 82 per cent increase since last December.

  • One of my pet hates about certain of our leaders is the way they surround themselves with a clique, some of whom are not even party members. What I want from the new leader is an assurance that they will not do this. Of course it’s understandable you will want to have a close-knot team around you that you trust – that’s fine. But I want all of those to be people who are rooted in the party, with real experience of campaigning. Not ambitious interlopers who regard the party as a necessary nuisance. There are enough talented people in the LibDems for Jo or Ed to gather a good team around them. No need to look elsewhere.

  • Been missing a Charles Kennedy type for some time, standing out from the crowd and making the hard choices that went against the normal choices but were the right calls with hindsight. Missing him greatly at this time of his passing a couple of years ago.

  • Clive Peaple 4th Jun '19 - 8:04am

    I’d like a leader who is absolutely committed to the 7 Principles for Standards in Public Life (1995 Nolan) . These should be her/his plumbline.
    Who can communicate the essentially simple LD message in a way that is crystal clear. Who is tough but caring. Who ‘brings on’ and cares for the excellent new generation of LDs.
    Who is truly inclusive.

  • Steve Trevethan 4th Jun '19 - 8:33am

    Perhaps someone who will seek an economics agenda to replace the current disaster of “Austerity for Some”, address the role of the UK in the declining but aggressive “Empire of the USA” and ditto the information stranglehold of the corporate media?

  • I have talked to many Labour supporters recently and tried to persuade to switch to us. Coalition policies such as the bedroom tax and not doing enough to rein in Theresa May on her hostility to immigrants policies are sticking points. They also tend to assume that Labour is the Party of human rights and so if they support Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, Medical Aid for Palestinians etc. Then they feel more comfortable staying with Labour. So I’d favour a leader who would make a big thing about human rights at home and abroad, fiercely going after the Home Office and the Foreign Office and championing the poorest in our society.

  • Katharine Pindar 4th Jun '19 - 9:19am

    The Alston report including the Government’s hostile attitude to it were discussed on Newsnight last night. This is an issue demanding a response from our party, and that could come from either our departing or our deputy leader or both, but it is needed now. Very helpful for David Raw to show us the situation of the food bank in Amber Rudd’s constituency! What Philip Alston showed was the actual deprivation and suffering of many disadvantaged people in our society, and it is their cause that we need to be taking up, and that our leaders need to be demanding urgent action on. That the benefit freeze will end next year is of no interest to people struggling now.

  • John Probert 4th Jun '19 - 11:22am

    We must have a leader who will prioritise solving the housing shortage and also set up a commission to find ways to redress our dis-balanced economy (the ‘north/south divide’).

  • Ian Hurdley 4th Jun '19 - 11:55am

    Because of our small size in Parliament we have been tempted to indulge in navel-gazing at times. Yes, our members decide policy but even with the welcome rapid growth in members and supporters, I want a leader who is clear that we are a party that cares about the left behind in our society and doesn’t just go out and talk to those people, but is prepared to sit down and listen to them in order to learn how to improve their lives.
    The Tories had precious few friends in Liverpool at the time of the Toxteth riots, but Michael Heseltine went there, listened properly and was able to set the city on the path to what it is now. So I guess I’m also looking for a leader who will acknowledge what other parties are doing right.

  • Roger Cubberley 4th Jun '19 - 1:08pm

    Errr, I’m sure that both candidates are wonderful, but as Vince is known and is now an obvious success for the Libdems, why does he have to/want to, go now? John Bercow has postponed his retirement from office, are you sure it’s a good time to distract the LB from the major objective of preventing leaving the EU by debating inter alia fine details between Ed and Jo?

    What do I know?

  • Roger Cubberly, I think it’s fairly clear that Vince has found the leadership quite draining. It’s true that his hard work has been rewarded in the last few weeks, but I think he knows that we need someone with huge amounts of energy to take the party forward. Given his age, he was always going to be a short-term leader – he made little secret of that. His main objective was to get the supporter scheme through, which he has done. He wants to do other things, like wrote more books – and pick the subjects he wants to get involved with as a backbencher. I suspect he is counting the days.

  • Sue Sutherland 4th Jun '19 - 2:16pm

    I agree with Katharine, David Raw and John Probert that we must tackle poverty. The North South divide is real and in the North East is exacerbated by poor educational attainment, only a third of the number of children from the NE go to Uni when compared with children from the South. This is down to poor performance at secondary school level. The North West has this problem too in several areas. The government has promised £28 million to help but I doubt that this will go very far as a sustained effort to improve the situation is required. Add to this the fact that white British disadvantaged boys are the ethnic group which is least likely to progress to university and you have the recipe for the politics of hatred.
    So there is a picture of poverty exacerbated by low social mobility which we as a party should be tackling now. Brexit is an expression of this for many people.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Jun '19 - 2:31pm

    I regard Leon highly and the article allows for reflecting on this.

    He is correct that our party should have leadership , it must, it does, from its Chief Executive and our president. We have fine people in those roles.

    We need a parliamentary leader who is good at understanding other than parliamentary aspects.

    I like bot our two possible, but regard Jo as perhaps more likely to give us added dynamism, something newer or different.

    I want less conceit about what liberalism, Liberalism, Liberal Democracy is.

    I want more humility and less hubris on the policies of coalition decisions.

    I think we need to reach beyond our party more and widen it.

    Jo is more in keeping with this but Ed is a good and admirable person too.

    We have excellent talent that must emerge more.

    Some of us want to serve but find it hard to see opening or gaps where possible to do so.

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