Who I’m backing… for the Lib Dem Mayoral candidate

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In all the excitement of the leadership contest, I’ve just realised that I never got around to endorsing anyone for the Lib Dem mayoral candidate.

Since the deadline for ballots has been extended, there are possibly 2, maybe even 3 votes out there that haven’t been cast yet, so here goes.

It’s a total no-brainer: it has to be Brian Paddick. The latest Metropolitan Police debacle says it all really. In that case Paddick showed excellent judgement under pressure – in stark contrast to his then boss – and was vindicated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s report earlier this year. He is the only candidate with actual experience of running a London-wide public authority and of the three has the best experience of London as a whole.

Chamali Fernando ran an excellent campaign and deeply impressed me. If the party doesn’t now groom her for a winnable or held Commons seat, it really has totally lost the plot. But while she would make a great candidate, I’m afraid to say I don’t have confidence in a relatively inexperienced twenty-something person running London. The next time she stands for something as well, a word of advice: don’t ever use the term “unspun” to sell yourself (which thinking about it is itself an oxymoron). It’s like “no problem” in that it alerts people to a concept that may hitherto not have been in their minds.

And you certainly should not use the phrase “unspun” in the contest of claiming to be “able to empower individuals, break routine and stampede formality”. I don’t happen to know what most of that phrase means, but I’m pretty sure it’s not entirely unrelated to spin.

Back to Paddick, if I do have a word of complaint, it is his campaign. It was lacklustre. Partly, I have heard on the grapevine, that is because of the phoney election that wasn’t and the subsequent leadership contest. But even a month ago I was disappointed by the website, which was uninspired, and his manifesto, which was concerned with making him look like a pro-forma Lib Dem candidate clone.

This isn’t how we should be selling him. His single strongest asset is his gravitas and trustworthiness. His main opponents are both clowns, particularly the shock haired freak the Tories are putting up against him. This is a real opportunity to carve out a distinctive agenda. That simply won’t happen if we treat this campaign like one big Parliamentary by-election.

Interestingly, it looks unlikely that his opponents will be able to make much of his most controversial act as a copper: downgrading the Brixton police’s handling of cannabis possession. This policy was of course a success and lead to a national policy change which has also now been shown to be a success, but all things being equal that won’t stop our opponents from trying to make hay with it (see Gordon Brown’s announcement to reverse the downgrading policy earlier in the summer).

But will Boris be able to make much of it given his jolly, libertarian image? And can you imagine cuddly Ken suddenly playing the cannabis card? They would both alienate large sections of their supporter base.

Bottom line: we have a candidate who inspires trust and has meaningful experience. That should be our key message, not nonsense about ensuring that buses don’t arrive at bus stops three in a row.

8 thoughts on “Who I’m backing… for the Lib Dem Mayoral candidate

  1. To the person who just posted an anonymous message making all sorts of allegations about Brian Paddick, if you give me your name I’ll consider publishing it. I’m getting very weary of the number of anonymongs posting on this site and am thinking of reinstating my previously far stricter comments policy.

    One minor rebuttal: I’m not querying Chamali’s age, I’m querying her experience.

  2. Chamali Fernando ran an excellent campaign and deeply impressed me. If the party doesn’t now groom her for a winnable or held Commons seat, it really has totally lost the plot
    While in many ways I agree with this sentiment, and I’ve now heard the same view expressed by 3 of our MPs, I do wonder if we’re being a little presumptious here.

    Chamali is running to be our candidate for Mayor of London – who’s to say she wants to be a parliamentary candidate or an MP? Wanting to be Mayor of London is a pretty respectable ambition in its own right – and on the flip side, there are plenty of parliamentary candidates who didn’t seek the mayoral nomination. I rather like the fact that we have candidates who know what they want to do rather than ones who just stand for anything that’s going.

    So if, as I suspect, Chamali really wants to be Mayor of London. Really, really wants to be Mayor of London, then she might be getting a teensy-weensy bit narked at constantly hearing how she should run for parliament “when she has some more experience”.

    And while we’re on that subject, I didn’t expect to read you having problems with “twenty-something running London”, James 😕 You make some very valid points on this blog about generational inequality, and younger people (a large and often small “l” liberal group in London) do seem to be rather under-represented. Surely selecting a 20-something (just!) might send a rather attractive message about our party?

    Not to mention that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough, right? 😉

  3. Well “not allowed to say”, to be blunt (and having spent a day deleting defamatory anonymong messages from Fernando campaigners I’m inclined to be blunt – the only reason I’ve approved your message is that at least I recognise your email address), I don’t think she is good enough. Having read her manifesto and seen her website, I was broadly impressed. But I do not believe she has any relevant experience of running a major world city. I haven’t voted for the person I thought would make the best candidate; I’ve voted for who I thought would make the best mayor. Apologies if that was being too ambitious.

    If her ambitions lie in that arena, given her lack of obvious experience she should have stood as a GLA candidate – for that role I’d have been inclined to give her a high pref for the very reasons you outline.

    Mea culpa, I shouldn’t have used the word twentysomething. But if she was a twentysomething who had spent the past five years running a London borough I would have given her serious consideration. I can name a few who that would apply to. But if fortysomething Boris is unqualified – and I think he is – then I can hardly back Chamali who is even less so.

    If she DOES have vast amounts of experience, she’s done a shoddy job at selling herself. And by filling her manifesto with nonsense management speak such as “able to empower individuals, break routine and stampede formality” she has betrayed a degree of naivety. Would you care to have a go at explaining to me what that means?

    One final point: I was asked to help Chamali at the start of her campaign and offered to do so. I had one conversation with her in which I offered to give her advice but couldn’t realistically produce a website for her from scratch in the 24 hours she gave me, and then heard nothing back. An experienced candidate would do a rather better job at making use of volunteers.

    I really don’t understand why making a few mild criticisms like this (in which I emphasised that she would make a good MP no less) has provoked such a silly campaign, or who is co-ordinating it, but you really aren’t doing your candidate any favours at all.

    Seriously. Stop the troll campaign. I’m starting to get mildly perturbed.

  4. ?? Troll campaign ??

    Can assure you that isn’t me. Nor indeed am I a “Fernando Campaigner”. I’m sure you can check IP addresses or whatever else but this is the only post I’ve made on your blog for a good long time.

    Hope my message didn’t come across as critical – just trying to engage with a point you’d made & on which we disagree.

    You know who I am but for reasons that you might guess at, I’m keen not to publicise that 🙂

  5. I’m not accusing you of making the previous comments, just that the previous comments are remarkably similar (each with a separate IP address), all hauling me over the coals for essentially one word and all blithely ignoring the rather more significant one which I used immediately before. I have no doubt they were co-ordinated.

    Why break your vow of silence now? Why take me to task over the age issue when I’ve already clarified that the main issue for me is experience? And I resent you insinuating that if she stood for Parliament I would claim she had too little experience. I’ve supported and campaigned for several younger and less experienced parliamentary candidates over the years.

    At least you weren’t making zany unfounded attacks on Brian Paddick.

  6. Still a bit confused by some of those comments but I’ve dropped you an email and can take it offline (if either of us can be bothered!)

  7. At the risk of opening up an argument again, I think there is a point on age. Electing the Mayor of London is in my view more like electing the Prime Minister in terms of their standing and influence. I wouldn’t want a 20-something Prime Minister, but a 20-something MP is different. MPs are just one of, hopefully, many Lib Dem MPs and not just the head person.

    I have heard Chamali speak and I met her at conference and she is impressive. She has said that she only wants to go for the mayoralty though, which is a shame as she would make a great MP.

  8. I’m willing to accept that in principle a 20-something might have the right experience to make a decent London Mayor, but they would have a very different CV to Chamali’s.

    If she only wants to be London Mayor, that’s fine. But if she’s serious, she should stand for the GLA first.

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