When it’s all said and done, Ming Campbell was my second choice and I’m happy with the result.
I can’t deny the result was a bit of a surprise. I’ve been convinced he’d win for the past fortnight, but I thought it would be within 5%. Similarly, I thought Simon Hughes was going to do better than he did.
Ming has more of a mandate than Charles Kennedy got in 1999 – more actual votes (just) and a higher turnout (although membership has gone down by 10,000 in the intervening 6 years). That genuinely surprised me. It’s a position of strength and squarely puts whingers like me in our places, but I hope he doesn’t imagine that gives him a blank cheque. The anonymous MP who told the Guardian yesterday that “It’s precisely because he’s older and experienced that he can afford to take risks and challenge and even piss off the party,” is half right. But he has to lead not drag the party by the nose. Some senior politicians seem to spend all their time fantasising about beating up the party’s grassroots, yet are blind to the fact that, given a bit of respect, the grassroots tends to go along with what the leadership wants 95% of the time.
In terms of my personal small contribution to the contest, Reflecting Britain, I’m delighted Ming won as his stated views on these issues are the closest to my own. I’m delighted at how both Ming and Huhne internalised Reflecting Britain into their own campaigns, even borrowing language and soundbites from it, and going beyond simply signing up. You can be sure that we will be taking Ming’s mandate as a mandate for the campaign itself and will ensure that the extremely positive things he said during the campaign will become reality.
As for Chris Huhne, even his most trenchant critics must surely accept that he played a blinder. While the result could obviously be better, his achievement has been considerable and he’s done a lot to highlight the issues that I personally value extremely highly. Campbell said in his acceptance speech that Huhne will have a good place in the frontbench, and he’s certainly earned it.
All in all though, I’m glad its all over and we can move on. Such hard fought election campaigns are a neccessary part of a healthy democracy, but it doesn’t mean they’re always fun experiences at the time!