Some interesting points here from Mark Littlewood regarding the Lib Dem leadership contest.
I agree with him that Chris Huhne needs to present himself more as a team player, and that Nick Clegg should be wary of relying on a campaign team that nearly lead Ming Campbell to defeat. I also – strongly – endorse the idea that the candidates need to big up their differences, something that both of them appeared to be at pains to minimise over the weekend. Then again, when you attempt to tease out a difference in the gentlest of ways, as Huhne did yesterday in the Torygraph, the media jump on it and suggest it is dirty and underhand.
On the Westminster Hour* last night I attempted to do that by presenting it as a contest between the strategist versus the communicator. Richard Grayson poured cold water on that suggestion, pointing out (correctly) that both Chris has shown he can be a terrific communicator and Nick has shown he can be a strategist in the past. It’s certainly fair that I may have over-egged the pudding, but ultimately insisting that the two are equals in every way doesn’t particularly help people make up their minds.
Bottom line: you only need to flick through the Sunday papers to realise what an effective job Nick Clegg has done to sell himself to the media. But at the same time, you only need to flick through half a dozen random policy papers to realise to what degree Chris Huhne has dominated much of our policy-making agenda. Before the leadership election there was his public services review. And he may have lost in 2006, but it was broadly his agenda, not Campbell’s, that the party followed in the subsequent months.
There’s been very coming from the Clegg camp today regarding campaign messages (sort your bloody website out!). Huhne by contrast has made two significant statements. One is that he has affirmed that PR ought to be a deal-breaker for any coalition deal. The other is that he would want Kennedy in his Shadow Cabinet.
All I can say to that is: good balance. Few people outside of the party or ERS will care particularly about the PR message, but it is important to Lib Dems (and ought to be important to the rest of you, but there you go). The Kennedy call meanwhile is very much tailored to appeal to the media and the wider public. It also makes good sense for the party to bring him back into the fold.
So a much needed good day for Huhne and an indifferent day for Clegg. On the other hand, yesterday was a terrific day for Clegg.
* The piece on Winchester which immediately preceeded this interview can be found here.