Probably the weakest of these criticisms is the one about Huhne being a closet (whisper it!) social democrat. Do catch up. The party has inherited too many genuine liberals from the old SDP for this to still be an issue: Roy Jenkins, Bob Maclennan, Charles Kennedy to name but three. In 1982, the Liberal Party had been in the political wilderness for decades; it is no surprise that liberals ended up in both Labour and the Conservatives. Some of the most illiberal people I’ve ever met within the party love to go on and on about their background in the old Liberal Party, which was more of a franchise for the disaffected than the Lib Dems have ever been. Sneering about anyone with an SDP background being a closet socialist is simply historically ignorant (compounded in Simon Mollan’s case by apparant ignorance that Huhne’s line about taxing the dead was a direct quote from David Lloyd-George).
Some of Simon’s criticisms are valid: Chris certainly does need to stop grinning inanely when he doesn’t realise the cameras are on him, and his apparent smugness over the YouGov poll did him few favours. I certainly do think that he needs some fairly intensive media training to get him up to speed. But as the former employee of Paddy Ashdown’s ex-speech trainer, I can state categorically that has applied to some of the best politicians around. And as a “problem” it is eminently fixable.
But his criticisms on international policy are just plain Simon, who in any case was an outspoken critic of Ming before the leadership blew up. Simon won’t like what ANY of the candidates have to say on foreign policy, so why he considers this to be a deciding factor in the contest is beyond me.
Ditto environmental taxation. Again, all three candidates are in favour; the debate is about degree. It is fair enough to choose the candidate closer to your view, but Simon does seem rather keen on attempting to portray this in black and white terms, with Chris and Ming at different ends of the spectrum. What he’s really saying is that he doesn’t like any of the candidates’ policies and Ming is the best of a bad lot. That’s again fair enough, but a bit of frankness would be nice.