Who do you think should stand for the Lib Dem presidency (and what should they do if elected)?

Ros Scott’s announcement that she is standing down from the position of party president has come as a surprise to Lib Dem members.

First, because it has become almost traditional for party presidents to serve two terms — Ros’s three predecessors, Simon Hughes, Lord Dholakia and Lord Maclennan all served two terms each, unchallenged. Secondly, because Ros herself is popular among the party’s grassroots. Though her authority took something of a knock during the MPs’ expenses scandal, the Voice’s most recent survey of party members showed she had a very good net effectiveness rating of +30%.

And, thirdly, because nominations for the post of party president opened on 1st September. If, as seems likely, Ros decided some time ago not to stand for a second term, why did she not make her decision known early enough for potential candidates to start limbering up for a campaign? As it is, anyone wishing to stand for the post has now only just over two weeks — nominations close on 29th September — to attain the nominations of 200 Federal Conference Representatives from a minimum of 20 different Local Parties to be eligible to stand. Easy enough for well-known parliamentary candidates (probably): a lot tougher for an ‘outside’ candidate.

This suggests Ros (and by extension the party leadership) has a preferred candidate in mind. Perhaps I’m reading too much into her phrase that “what we need now is a strong media performer and tough campaigner”; but the moment I read that I assumed she had in mind Tim Farron.

Tim recently stood against Simon Hughes for the post of deputy leader of the parliamentary party in the House of Commons (usually abbreviated, technically inaccurately, to the title of deputy leader) after Vince Cable vacated the position upon entering government. Though he was defeated by Simon, Tim was clearly setting down a marker for his future leadership ambitions within the party. Identified as a social liberal (centre-left, if you must) within the Lib Dems, he is a noted platform speaker, and achieved a quite remarkable general election result, winning 60% of the vote in Westmorland and Lonsdale on an 11% swing, in what used to be a safe Conservative seat.

The early smart money, then, is on Tim. But of course there are other possibilities. If Paddy Ashdown were to stand he would surely walk it; though it’s far from clear he would wish to subject himself to another round of the ‘rubber muesli’ circuit — and, in any case, if he were to seek office, surely a role in government would be more appealing? Another former leader might also be a possibility: Charles Kennedy. Having seemingly not defected to Labour, might he look for a return to the limelight? One fly in the ointment here were he to be minded to stand: Charles served two terms as party president in the 1990s, making it constitutionally uncertain if he would be eligible to stand for election again.

Are there others from the party’s parliamentary ranks, current or recent, who Lib Dem Voice readers would like to see stand for the post? Or perhaps you think (notwithstanding the shortened nominations timetable) that the next party president should come from beyond the ranks of the Lib Dem parliamentary party: whether from local government, or simply a party activist with ideas and energy?

Let us know what you think below. And, more importantly, tell us what you think should be the chief aims of whoever stands for the presidency, given this is the first time there will have been an election for the post with the Lib Dems involved in government.

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30 Comments

  • It is time for a Party President from the party’s local govt base – such as Chris Maines

  • Martin Land 11th Sep '10 - 7:32pm

    In the old Liberal Party it was generally felt that the role of the President was to represent the ordinary grass roots membership, the ALC, constituency activists.

    In the Lib Dems it seems to have become a post for yet another Westminster insider after another and as we have more than enough of those already and with fewer and fewer members it really has seemed very unimportant.

    Now, more than ever we could do with a ‘grass roots’ President. I’m not hopeful though. As you point out Stephen this smells like it has all been worked out well in advance…

    I’d stand myself, but the logistics of getting 200 signatures in such a short space of time make it seem very difficult.

  • Shirley Williams?

  • Richard Hill 11th Sep '10 - 10:05pm

    How about somebody with views of the centre so they can relate to all party members. It is supposed to be a Liberal party not just another voice for the left wing, which all the people mentioned so far seem to be.

  • Charles Kennedy.

  • I think it would be healthy for the next President not to come from the ranks of the parliamentary party.

  • I hadn’t twigged about Tim Farron but now you mention it, that makes a lot of sense, and he would fit the bill perfectly. At a time when we’re looking for someone aggressively to promote a distinctive Liberal agenda – and remind the media that we haven’t been subsumed within the Tory party – Tim would be an excellent candidate to do that. He’s also an excellent grassroots campaigner and very clearly not “of the Westminster Village”. I’d be very happy with him as President.

  • Wally Walker 12th Sep '10 - 12:20am

    How about Evan Harris?

  • David Allworthy 12th Sep '10 - 1:25am

    “…to attain the nominations of 200 Federal Conference Representatives from a minimum of 20 different Local Parties to be eligible to stand. Easy enough for well-known parliamentary candidates (probably): a lot tougher for an ‘outside’ candidate.”

    What is so difficult about getting the signatures of 200 Conference Representatives when several thousand are all in Liverpool the week after next for a Conference. Pretty easy excercise to organise really.

    David

  • Nick Clegg – then someone else can lead the party :-)))))))

  • Simon McGrath 12th Sep '10 - 7:24am

    @Louise – thank you very much!
    I have stood for office before,I used to be Chairman of the Liberal Trade Unionists and on the NEC and Conference Cttee of the Liberal Party as well as candidate for Holborn St Pancras but don’t think this one is for me.
    I completely agree with you that ‘passion, engagement and ability to listen and enthuse’ are they key characteristics.

    like some of the other commentators I am surprised how difficult it is to get nominated for this post and it’s unfortunate that there is only 3 weeks before nominations close which makes it difficult for anyone not already well connected in the Party.

  • Navnit’s predecessor was Diana Maddock who only served one term

  • What the party lacks most conspicuously is a leader. Yes, Nick Clegg was elected leader, but he has effectively abdicated that role in favour of propping up a right-wing Tory government. Clegg doesn’t do what leaders normally do. He doesn’t lead, he doesn’t promote that party’s policies and values, he speaks up for an opposing party which is and always has been our most deadly enemy.

    In the circumstances, what is required is someone to do what the de jure leader isn’t doing. We need a big name, with plenty of gusto, who can tour TV studios and criss-cross the country enthusing activists and connecting with the electorate. He/she should be able to make it clear to voters that the coalition is a temporary necessary evil, and that once we get out of it it is business as usual.

    Charles Kennedy, Paddy Ashdown, Simon Hughes. Any one of those three. Yes, even young Mr Farron.

  • david thorpe 12th Sep '10 - 2:44pm

    is it a paid position?m
    I ask because if its a non parliamnetarian then would they be able to perform the duties as well as a full time job?
    I think chris rennard would be a good choice.

    sesneco..

    by the standards of the toreis, this is not a right wing government.

  • @david thorpe
    not a right wing government-no
    an ultra right wing government-yes.
    Any of Sesenco’s choices would easily eclipse even the dazzling Nick Clegg.

  • david thorpe 12th Sep '10 - 10:37pm

    how do you think this government is to thwe right of new labour?
    how do you think this government is to the right of thatcher.
    Even within his own party Cameorn is a moderate, rather than extreme right wing figure, add in the proportion of lib dem policies being implemented and you have a government which is far from right wing.
    Paddy was a great leader, chasrles an ineffective one, simon has been defeated for it a few times, although he is someone I admire immenesely. Farron may be a futrue leader but he is at the start of his career and its fair to say has something to prove

  • Nick (not Clegg) 12th Sep '10 - 11:24pm

    Sorry David, but this is a right wing government by any standards.

    I believe that its policies (actually forget its professed “policies”, ignore the rhetoric and look at what it is actually doing) will be even more destructive than those of Thatcher’s governments. I just hope that it does not last so long.

  • Jonathan Davies 12th Sep '10 - 11:51pm

    The most important job of the President is to be the key channel of communication between the Party and the Parliamentary Party, and in particular now between the Party and our Ministers.

  • @david – you might think CK was an ineffective leader, but the election results would differ. In any case, the role of President is a different kettle of fish, and Charles actually did that quite well.

    I’d actually quite like to see one of the “elder statespeople” as President. Charles, Paddy and possibly even Ming would do a good job, but what about Lord Steel? He was interviewed on 5 Live yesterday morning, and I’d forgotten just how much of a radical he was in his younger years (the Abortion Act, the fight against apartheid – which threatened his own seat when he opposed a rugby tour by South Africa in the Borders) and some of his comments since the coalition have been to the left of centre. He could easily provide the “quiet voice” Nick Clegg needs to remind him of the views of members.

  • I think the role of Party President has to know how to use social media effectively as well as make us distinct from the Tories in people’s perceptions.

    Not sure who would do that best as i’ve just joined the party.

  • Susan Kramer.

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