Very brief, but in order of performance…
- 1st, Chris: good interventions, best on policy. Absolutely creamed Oaten on his attempts to claim the Liberal crown. Delighted to hear him critical of road user charging (preferring higher fuel duties) and his general candidness about environmental policy. Also, by far the strongest on public sector reform.
- 2nd, Ming: came across very well. Articulate, to the point. Not clear what he was saying about the Lib Dem’s current policy on getting more women MPs, describing it as a complete failure yet opposing all women shortlists. I would humbly suggest that the failure was in the lack of senior political support, not the current GBTF policy itself which has been a modest success.
- 3rd, Oaten: came across as the most bullying and least consensual. His pontificating about Cameron not being a real liberal was a joke given his own latter-day damascene conversion. On environmental issues he was appalling, claiming that we should simply financially reward good behaviour rather than punish bad behaviour (with what? Fairy dust?), and waxing about bioethanol which is a complete environmental blind alley. But at least he participated, unlike…
- 4th, Hughes: the most reserved of the four and all but disappeared as the debate went on. Genial and consensual, and what he said was fine, but he allowed the others to dominate which is not what you want to see in a leader.
Conclusion: on this type of format, Huhne could do very well indeed. Roll on Any Questions (and Question Time?).
Oh, and Rob Fenwick – you are very cheeky! 🙂
Under-reported in Lib Dem blogs is this opinion poll by ICM, showing the Lib Dem support down just a single percentage point at 1%.
One thing our opponents are unlikely to acknowledge is that we appear to have reached a point whereby a fifth of the country supporting the Lib Dems has now become the normative. Before 2003, the normative was closer to 15%.
What does this mean? It certainly suggests that so long as we can hit the ground running after the leadership election, there is every reason we can look forward to new horizons in the next general election. I for one am genuinely surprised at how well our support has held up under the Cameron onslaught and with the harder definition that a new leader will bring, our prospects are looking very good indeed.
Forceful and moderate’s own George Galloway Libertycat (which presumably makes the fire headed Viv Rula Lenska) mentions an interesting quote from Oaten in the Guardian:
Mr Oaten also warned that some Lib Dems were failing to live up to their liberal belief in individual freedom by falling in with “nanny state” proposals to ban smoking or outlaw foxhunting.
He said: “A lot of my colleagues would support a ban on smoking, but as a liberal I’m uncomfortable with that, so I do challenge the party to be tough about its liberal values and stick to them even when it challenges something we believe in.”
This, I would remind you, is the mastermind behind the party’s opposition to relaxing the licensing laws, claiming that alcohol related crime was “out of control” (when it has been falling) and that we were to expect a “Christmas Crisis” once the new laws took effect.
Personally, from a liberal perspective, I would say that there is a much stronger argument for smoking bans than strict licensing laws. Passive smoking has a perceptable effect on people’s health regardless of who does the smoking while the effects of drinking very much depends on the individual. My point is, quite simply, the Oaten is in no position to lecture anyone about liberalism.