Clegg or Huhne? Quaequam Blog! comes off the fence

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Leaving aside the superficial similarities, what emerges are two very different personalities coming at this campaign at a very different point in their lives and focusing on very different priorities. Huhne invokes Bill Clinton when he states that it’s the economy (stupid); Clegg talks about how the economy-focused politics of the 1970s and 80s are now long dead and buried. Huhne talks about devolution, of bringing government closer to people; Clegg talks about empowerment, of giving people more direct control over the public services they use.

Huhne talks about raising spending-per-pupil to public school levels within two parliaments; Clegg talks about raising spending on poorer students to public school levels within a single parliament. Huhne talks about how a single event – such as a mild winter in Canada and a drought in Australia – could ensure that the environment shoots up the public’s list of priorities; Clegg talks about meeting the public’s concerns about our environmental policies head on in the hear and now. Huhne wants to talk about Trident; Clegg would rather talk about son of Star Wars.

Which way do I jump? You’ll have to go to Comment is Free to find out.

13 thoughts on “Clegg or Huhne? Quaequam Blog! comes off the fence

  1. Excellent CIF article James! The equivocation is over! Excellent. You have been extremely fair and astonishingly painstaking in your deliberations – well done!

  2. James I’d never have had you of all people down as one of the ‘kid gloves’ merchants who would whine at the first sign of negative campaigning….

  3. Hmm my employer’s web filtering deems comment is free as being Evil(tm) so I’ll just have to suffice with ‘hovering’.. you know, your coverage of this contest has been maddening on occasions but you did set a benchmark for neutrality and objectivity that frankly puts a lot of other blogs to shame. Really well done 🙂

  4. Thank you for emphasising the importance of Nick’s clear commitment to take action and fundraise to address the ethnic and gender issues within the party. In pointing out that Nick is the only candidate to talk about this, and that at least his leaflets reflect Britain, I have been accused of playing ‘a cheap shot’

  5. “PPC” – I didn’t whine at the first sign of negative campaigning. I whined after a month of constant, unending, relentless negative campaigning at the expense of pretty much everything else. Wood, trees, anyone?

  6. Clinton says “It’s the economy, stupid”, a young detective is advised to “Follow the money”. Different words, same thought. Anyone who aspires to a fairer, greener society more at ease with itself must get to grips with how wealth and power are created and distributed. This in turn requires a profound understanding of how the economy works; anything else is just shovelling fog.

    That Lib Dems have traditionally rather shied away from economic issues (or naively subscribed to the prevailing consensus) is a major reason why we remain largely a marginal party of protest with a very wobbly central message.

  7. Not sure the Lib Dems have “traditionally” shied away from economics – the Liberal Party certainly had a lot to say about it in the early 20th century. But it is certainly true that more recently we have tended towards minor incremental change rather than a radical re-evaluation.

  8. Yes James, the Liberal Party was founded on the principle of free trade. But I think Gordon’s point is that, since the emergence of Labour in the 1920s, our party and its predecessors have been depicted – rightly or wrongly – as muddled cowardly inbetweeners on the big Labour vs Conservative economic questions which have dominated political debates and election campaigns (labour vs capital; state control or regulation vs free market economics; tax and spend vs tax cuts).

    None of our Leaders have satisfactorily been able to dispel that notion, although the ones who came closest were probably Steel in 1979 and Steel & Jenkins in 1983, when the economy was in trouble and when both other main parties were diametrically ideologically opposed to each other.

    Although the economy and jobs is less high up the list of important issues for voters than health and crime, at least according to MORI, it does still dictate political preference for the vast majority of “instinctive” voters. Our inability to get noticed in these debates has been a constant frustration for many Lib Dem activists.

    On past experience, our best chance of elbowing ourselves into the conversation is to have a Leader who sounds both different and well-informed. When we elected a soldier as Leader (Ashdown), over time we became much more credible on foreign affairs and defence issues, such as Bosnia. When we elected someone with great media savvy (Kennedy), over time we were taken more seriously by the media and given more airtime on issues where we were distinctive (e.g. immigration, ID cards, Iraq).

    I know you voted differently from me, James, but I do think Chris is much more credible on economic issues than Nick. If Nick wins, what will his previous experience give that will be of distinct benefit to us? It might be that he was an MEP, which could make us more visibly pro-European, but it won’t be economics. Incidentally, Vince Cable is a former chief economist for Shell, and knows his onions on financial issues. I think this (as well as some superb speaking points – the Mr Bean line from today’s PMQs was genius) is one of the main reasons why we’ve received such a good press over the past few weeks as Brown and Darling have stumbled.

  9. I don’t dispute that Huhne is more credible on economics than Clegg, I just don’t accept that this is the be-all and end-all of being a leader. We have great economists in key roles – do we really need them at the head? Do the Conservatives? Have they ever? Did Labour under Blair? Are they doing better now as a consequence?

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