Tag Archives: Simon-Hughes

A Question of Honesty

Simon Hughes claimed on Question Time tonight that he has never attacked the other two candidates. Dimblebum later said that the attacks were on his website, prompting this rebuttal:

Simon appeared on BBC1’s Question Time with the other leadership candidates on Thursday evening, and really connected with the audience in the studio and at home – it’s worth watching.

However, in the course of the progamme David Dimbleby stated as fact that Simon has published two attacks relating to other leadership candidates in his manifesto and / or on this Website. This allegation is untrue.

Well, I haven’t bothered scrolling through the whole website, but I have noticed that neither the In the News or Speeches section have been updated since before the ballot papers went out on 3 February. As I don’t scrutinise the website regularly, I can only assume that is a monumental cock-up on Camp Hughes’ part rather than that they have gone scurrying around removing anything in the past week that could be seen as an attack. But the BBC’s website is updated somewhat more regularly. It still carries the following story:

Mr Hughes, seen as the most left-wing of the three leadership contenders, said of Sir Menzies, the party’s 64-year-old acting leader and foreign affairs spokesman: “Members have to make a choice. Do they want a leader for this parliament and this generation or do they want a caretaker?”

He said Treasury spokesman Mr Huhne, 51, lacked “campaigning experience” and had “no evidence of relating well to the British public”.

These are direct quotes – attributed to him personally, not a spokesperson. If the BBC has printed an outright falsehood, then it is an absolute scandal. So, what action is Simon taking to have the story taken down, or have the relevant journalists disciplined? It is odd that he has allowed the stories to stay up there unchallenged for the past two days.

Once again then, we return to Simon Hughes’ judgement. Like the gay/bi/whatever situation, it is the way he has handled it that has raised eyebrows. There’s nothing wrong with being gay or bisexual. And there is nothing wrong with having criticisms of your political opponents – both criticisms are ones that the targets will need to account for. My suspicion is that he did say these things, whatever Camp Hughes put on their website. I would have a lot more respect for him if he had just come out and admitted it, rather than dissemble.

On a related note, I have received notice that Simon isn’t planning to answer the questions set on his e-hustings until Monday. Will anyone have not voted by then? (that is a rhetorical question by the way Rob)

UPDATE: Ann Treneman remarks:

It was a weird moment. Mr Hughes was being asked about saying that Chris Huhne was not very well known and that Sir Ming Campbell was cautious. Now Mr Hughes definitely said those things, and not long ago. Perhaps he had just forgotten. I found it worrying. Can his denial really be that strong? The answer, as always with the Lib-Dems, is that it can.

Maybe Simon will be suing the Times as well?

If the cap fits…

Alex Wilcock has given me a new tagline: “crass, boorish and more a bruiser than blogger.

Moi? I’m a pussycat! Still, I should use this opportunity to plug his three excellent articles on the leadership contenders: Let Ming Be Ming, Simon: Think Before You Open Your Mouth and Chris: Fill in the Person, Not the Policy. I’m not convinced after reading these posts, especially the Ming one, that I’m the only “bruiser” out there.

Hughesy Loses It and the News

(Geddit? GEDDIT? You know, the band that did the theme tune to that time travel film. What was it called? Bridge to the Future or something?)

The story today is that Hughes has diverted his fire away from Campbell and onto Huhne. Earlier today, I speculated that this was a miscalculation based on jitters about Huhne overtaking him. It is certainly a bad idea to attack the candidate in third place, it only gives them credibility. What’s more, at this point candidates need to start repeating the message, the message, the message and Hughes’ best message is that he won’t be a caretaker leader.

But the more I think about it, the more I think this must be a deliberate face saving measure. In essence, Hughes has looked at his own internal polling, seen that he’s in third place, and has decided that finishing in a face-saving second must be his main priority from now until 2 March. The hope must be that his mudslinging, combined with Campbell’s, will start to stick and Huhne’s support will start to slip under sheer relentless attack. Anyone who has fought an election campaign when Labour and the Tories start sharing lines of attack in the interest of preserving a two-party “status quo” will recognise this tactic.

As for Hughes’ manifesto, one has to ask: what’s the point? We’re back to litany politics here – lots of policy bites and “themes” but no overall message or structure. It is an example of everything we’ve been doing wrong with Lib Dem campaigning in recent years. What’s worse, by being too specific, it means that if elected he is simply letting himself in for years of policy battles and accusations of U-turns. All candidates are open to this, but the other two have attempted to walk the fine line between detail and vision. Hughes plumps straight for detail.

And it has to be pointed out that this thing should have been wheeled out last week. Launching a manifesto after a good 20% of the electorate have already physically voted is just plain daft.

There has been a curious lack of fire in this campaign. My assumption has always been that Simon would do better than the media expected because of his natural charisma and ability to do a good speech. He has those qualities, but too often his campaign has been about fighting the battles of yesterday. Too much of his manifesto sounds like it came out of policy papers from the mid-90s: he’s refighting old battles. If Campbell is a Bridge to the Future, then Hughes is a Tunnel to the Past.


I’ve been told off before for over-exercising the right side of my brain, but was yesterday’s botched YouGov leak an over-enthusiastic Huhne supporter, or a cunning Campbell supporter who wanted to undermine him? After all, Camp Campbell is the team with all the past form for anonymous briefing.

Secondly, regarding Peter Kellner’s denial, is it that the figures are innaccurate (Campbell was on 41% not 40% for example) but broadly along the right lines or are they way off? In short, this could still be a leak regardless of that missive. Unfortunately – and reasonably – Kellner has refused to comment further.

The fact remains that somebody commissioned that poll, presumably a supporter of one of the candidates, and that they don’t want us to see the results. All we can hope and pray for is that whoever commissioned the second YouGov poll will publish no matter what.

The advantage of YouGov is that they are able to easily contact select groups such as members of political parties, unlike telephone polling companies. The disadvantage with using them is that subsequently party hacks with an over-inflated sense of their own importance (i.e. bloggers) get wind of any poll pretty quickly. Take note.

From leaks to leeks

(with apologies for that title)

The Times polled about a third of Lib Dem members who attended the Cardiff hustings on Monday, and the runaway winner was Chris Huhne. See this article and this graphic for details.

As Peter Snow used to say, this is just a bit of fun. But it does suggest that the more engaged members have very much warmed to him. It is time that the other candidates started to respect that, rather than sniffily dismiss it. Who’s going to deliver your leaflets in 2008/9, Mr Clegg?

Lib Dem Peace and Security Group Hustings

This doesn’t appear to have been put anywhere else online, so I thought I’d post it here. The LDPSG (or whatever they’re called) asked the three candidates three questions. These are their responses, which I am adding here without comment:

Ming Campbell

As you will know, the Government is at the early stage of reviewing the post-Trident options and I have been leading some preliminary work on our side in the Foreign Affairs and Defence teams.

I respect the fact that members approach the debate from different perspectives and that there are many opinions within the party about whether or not we should have a nuclear deterrent, never mind replace it. In line with our manifesto commitment last year, I have always argued for multilateral disarmament and the retention of a minimum deterrent in the meantime. Under my leadership of the foreign affairs team we have been strong critics of the GovernmentÂ’s failure to achieve meaningful progress on disarmament.

The debate on the future replacement of Trident offers us a new opportunity to consider all of the relevant issues. Clearly the strategic context has altered significantly since the end of the Cold War. The idea that Britain needs a deterrent against an attack from Russia at present stretches credibility beyond breaking point. I also reject any notion that a nuclear capability would deter international terrorists.

However, I do believe that we have a responsibility to consider the world 15 – 20 years hence, when we would be replacing Trident, and think through which other countries may be a threat to us and what would be the best way to deal with them And beyond this strategic context, we must also consider the types of replacement which are feasible, the costs associated with them and the alternative uses to which these scarce resources could be put.

An obvious question which must be answered by those advocating smaller mobile missile systems is whether this might have the unintended effect of lowering the threshold for missile use and even increase the rate of proliferation of smaller systems.

This decision cannot be taken overnight and will not be resolved in the course of the leadership contest, whatever others might suggest. We have pressed the Government to publish a White Paper on the subject and will continue to do so: we all have a right to know the options being considered by the cabinet and the information on which they are based.

Within the party, we must have a full debate and I am pleased that the conference committee has asked FPC to establish a process which will allow this to take place over the next year. The timescale will ensure that we consider all the issues thoroughly and reach a proper conclusion. In the meantime, I do not believe that we should be signing up to the positions being taken by Michael Meacher or anybody else. The party must form its own policy, not be led by others.

I appreciate that my long held views on the nuclear deterrent are already known to you, but I want to stress that I am committed to a full debate on all the issues. It is a once in a generation decision and it is important that we get it right.

Simon Hughes

What is your personal opinion on whether or not Trident should be replaced with a new nuclear weapons system?

Whilst a decision on Trident is not needed now, my strong instincts are to go for a substantial reduction in our nuclear arsenal, and to look very seriously at the potential for using a reduction in, or elimination of, the UK nuclear force as a lever to generate genuine worldwide disarmament.

Replacing Trident would certainly be seen as an act of provocation given the current international debate on the development of nuclear capability by countries such as Iran. The role of an independent nuclear deterent has been changed given that there is now only one world superpower and that any replacement for Trident would be purchased from that superpower – which would make it not very independent! Many of the greatest threats to our security come from shadowy terrorist groups who we can hardly threaten to annihilate in a nuclear exchange. The debate has moved on and it is time for the Liberal Democrats to demonstrate how we would use the £billions that would otherwise be spent on replacing
Trident, by investing in our communities and their services.

Do you think that Party Conference should have a defining role in deciding Lib Dem policy on this issue?

Absolutely. The Parliamentary Party must remember that they are merely 62 members of the party. The role of the MPs is important of course, but Conference is the sovereign body of the Party and should define policy in this and all areas.

Would you encourage Lib Dem MPs to sign EDM 1197 Replacement for Trident Weapons (Michael Meacher)? It calls for a full public debate on the subject leading to a Green Paper considering all options including non-replacement; and ‘further calls on the Government not to conclude any agreements, or to engage in preparations to build a new generation of nuclear weapons, until after this debate and a deciding vote held in Parliament.’

I have a lot of sympathy with Michael Meacher’s EDM but would prefer that the Liberal Democrats took the lead on this and submitted our own motion setting out our own priorities and principles.

Chris Huhne

What is your personal opinion of whether or not Trident should be replaced with a new nuclear weapons system?

I cannot see the justification for the replacement of a system designed before the end of the Cold war in a world where we faced a real threat from an aggressive Soviet Union. The world has changed, and our policy needs to reflect the new challenges of peace-making and peace-keeping in the context of our obligations to the United Nations and the European Union. There must be a full parliamentary and public debate on replacement: I am not against replacement of Trident by a minimum deterrent, but I cannot believe that a full-scale replacement is necessary or desirable.

Do you think that party conference should have a defining role in deciding Lib Dem policy on this issue?

Under our constitution, party conference has the defining role in our policy on this as every other issue following a report drawn up by a policy commission set up by the Federal Policy committee. That is right and proper in a democratic party, and any party leader who ignores that fact is asking for trouble. We must not go back to the bad old days where party leaders
ignored conference and treated activists with disdain. I have personally been involved in many policy-making areas over many years, and I have never been afraid to argue my case on the conference floor, and I am not about to change the habits of a political lifetime now!

Would you encourage LD MPs to sign EDM 1197 Replacement for Trident Weapons (Michael Meacher)?

Yes, and I have signed it myself. One of the most worrying features of the current situation concerning a Trident replacement is the mounting evidence that the Government may be pre-empting a public debate by private decisions taken behind closed doors. This was the pattern with the replacement of Polaris by Trident in 1994. Already, there has been an announcement of a substantial upgrading at Faslane where the Trident warheads are stored, and work has also begun that could potentially be the basis of a new nuclear weapons system at Aldermaston. This is entirely unacceptable, and we must make common cause with all those in the Commons who want an open and honest public debate on the new threat assessment and our responses to it. There is much less reason for official secrecy in this area than people think, as the Americans repeatedly show with a much more open debate on the renewal or replacement of weapons systems.

Is Camp Campbell worried?

Nick Clegg’s piece today is a calculated attack on Chris Huhne: Hughes is damned with faint praise, while Nick has almost nothing to say about his own candidate except accept make excuses for the poor campaign and more willy waving about the number of MPs. Thank goodness for the sub-editor who opted for a less beat-around-the-bush approach.

One of his arguments is that Ming is supported by “the party’s two leading environmental spokesmen” Norman Baker and Chris Davies. I don’t take issue with the latter, who has done a very fine job in the European Parliament. It has to be said however that environmental policy at the EU level is a very different kettle of fish from the UK. In the European Parliament, Davies deals with regulatory instruments and setting targets for the Euro-region to follow. It doesn’t deal with the sort of taxation policy that Huhne has been advocating.

If we’re being frank though, I have to say that I’m not impressed by the job Norman Baker has done over the past few years with the environment brief. He has tended to do what Phil Willis was always accused of doing: sing to his own interest groups. For instance, he has followed loyally behind them in opposing energy from waste policies, a stance that has at time been appallingly NIMBYish.

And he’s been extremely bad at the big picture environmentalism, of the kind that Chris Huhne has made an issue of in this campaign. This has got the party into trouble at times. Back in early 2004, we started to get quite alarming feedback from environmental groups and journalists about the lack of substance to the Lib Dem’s green agenda, following a keynote speech by Kennedy. The Green Lib Dems (I was Vice Chair at the time) were so alarmed by the feedback we had received that we lobbied Kennedy to do a second speech six months later, spelling out a more strategic approach. It worked, but it was frustrating to see us slipping back to the same uninspiring style following the general election (something which I commented on here).

Norman Baker bears responsibility for this, so you will forgive me if I am unperturbed that he isn’t backing Huhne for leader in favour of a candidate that advocates nonsenses like road user charging.

But back to Clegg’s article. What is clear from it is that he now sees Huhne as the target. This can only be a good thing from Huhne’s point of view. Is it significant that we are still Waiting for YouGov? If Guido’s “leak” proves correct, then it rather looks as if Camp Campbell were somehow involved in this poll and are sitting on it. Either way, the new poll today should, presumably commissioned by someone else, should stop that game.

As for the excuses regarding Ming’s campaign, I’m afraid I’m not convinced. Yes, Ming couldn’t afford to attack the other candidates in the way they have gone for him (slightly ironic, given that most of the really negative stuff has come from individuals within Camp Campbell), but he could have fought a massively more positive campaign to the one we have. People are frustrated at the fact that Ming seems to turn up to fewer hustings than the other candidates. The fact that, for example, the Mingcasts are now all from people eulogising about the Great Man and not the Ming himself, is starting to become apparent. Aren’t we important enough for him to waste his time on?

People have always respected Ming – that has never been an issue. What they have been less sure about is if they like him, particularly after the Kennedy debacle. Ming has chosen not to tackle that issue and that, more than anything else, is why he has been losing so much ground.

UPDATE: Mike Smithson has also been leaked the poll. He has this to say:

My informant tells me that the survey was commissioned by a wealthy backer of Ming Campbell who is also a big donor and he told me his name.

I was given the figures of Campbell 40%: Huhne 34% and Hughes 24% on first preferences. My information is that while the Hughes second preferences would split in Huhne’s favour they do not split enough for him to win.

Come on “mystery donor”, show us what you’ve got. The damage has already been done and every day you delay you just make your own man look even more stupid. It does raise the question though: why has Ming chosen to surround himself with such overexcitable fools who have done so much to damage his campaign? Once again I’d remind you that this is a question of leadership.

Flying blind

My trailled “killer post” on Huhne failed to emerge. Sorry, had problems with another project last night. Not sure I have that much to add to what I’ve already said in any case.

The lack of YouGov poll is proving irritating. Guido and Mike Smithson speculate that this is because the commissioner didn’t like the results, which is a bit crap given that they must know that is the risk you take with polls.

Yesterday, I received an envelope of bumph from Huhne and today I got a “blue letter” from the man along with my ballot paper. Also, an ad in the print edition of the Guardian.

Have to say, I also enjoyed listening to Radio Huhne last night. The inquisitorial style they’ve got going there contrasts widely with David Walter’s at times sycophantic Mingcasts. Really reinforces the fact that Huhne is the thinking member’s choice.

UPDATE: Guido is now saying the poll went Campbell 40%, Huhne 34% and Hughes 24%. No word on second preferences, but if true this is nothing but good news for Our Chris.

UPDATE 2: Just completed a SECOND YouGov survey on the Lib Dem leadership. Will they print this one, do you think?

Big Yellow Taxi

Simon Hughes has grandly launched his online ehustings (although I note he still hasn’t answered the 5 questions put to him and the other candidates by Reflecting Britain), so I thought I’d submit this one:

Simon, you’ve made a big deal out of the environment and green issues in the campaign, yet you drive a diesel powered Taxi. Ming Campbell has said he will give up his Jag – are you prepared to put your money where your mouth is and give up your car?

Fair enough, Rob?

Panic or black propaganda?

Surely this is a deliberate attempt to undermine Ming’s campaign? The backstabbers of Charles Kennedy going around calling people traitors? Secret handshakes?

My guess is the source of this piece is very much a non-Oranger Booker (most people accept that, insults aside, there is no such thing), probably a Simon Hughes supporter who has calculated that Campbell is more vulnerable to Huhne than their guy. It can’t be the Campbell campaign mouthing off; they’ve had a lot of false starts so far, but they simply aren’t that stupid.

Good fun to be had by all.

UPDATE: More information in this interview.