My verdict on the Paddick campaign

My piece on Comment is Free this morning is rather less “sunshine and buttercups” than my effort yesterday:

Has the light at the end of the tunnel I was detecting yesterday turned out to be a freight train moving at speed in the wrong direction? Maybe not, but there is no disguising the fact that the London elections have been awful for the Liberal Democrats.

For the record, and not that I’m complaining about being censored, my original draft was considerably more sweary. Read the full article here.


  1. Regarding Paddick’s intention to continue in politics: I met him briefly twice and in my judgement he is too reserved to make a success of it. Shaking hands and kissing babies to get elected do not come naturally to him. He should instead look out for an executive role where he can get on and do something.

  2. Julian: I’m sure I could publish it if I wanted to but given that the only significant change is the deletion of an eff word I’m not sure it would be worth it.

  3. Yes, Brian was inexperienced as a campaigner – a very strong CV but without media savy skills or self promoting celebrity. But I think it would be unfair to lay the blame for the failure of the mayorial campaign on Brian, what struck me more was that his campaign team seemed politically out of their depth – the party should assembled a more astute team better able to work with Brian’s stengths and weaknesses as candidate. And in this case I don’t think the strategy to make Brian appear semi-independent from the Party (eg by not using party colours wherever possible – blue tabloids, no bird of Liberty around etc), was a wise call at all — should have been promoted as libdem cabdidate embodying lib dem values of hard work and strong strategic focus on electoral ‘patch’. Brian did his upmost to elbow his way into the contest, but the campaign team around him wasn’t up to the job – notwithstanding that it included senior party staff. We should learn from this – as likewise Nick will need a strong GE team.

  4. I don’t think I did lay all the blame on him. As I said in my article, the fundamental problem was that we seemed to give up on promoting him halfway through in favour of attacking the other two candidates.

  5. What’s happening here is that for all our support for PR in theory, we LibDems actually rather like fighting elections under FPTP. We like to get stuck into fighting an election in a small geographical area. We just can’t get into fighting elections spread over a large area where we’re just looking to gain an overall percentage of the vote but we can’t possibly cover ever voter.

    Right from the start it was pretty obvious ours would be a hopeless case in the mayoral election, and whoever we selected as candidate would be a sacrificial victim. This became even more obvious as the campaign started and it became clear that hardly anyone understood the electoral system (remember we live in a country where it’s a badge of pride to say one is innumerate, and the standard of journalism where any slight numeracy is required is … well, what you’d expect from a bunch of arts graduates), so the best argument we had “1st choice for us 2nd choice for Ken/Boris to keep out Boris/Ken” would never get across. I suspect most London LibDem activists were half-hearted from the start, prefering to keep their reserves of energy and funds for the 2010 borough elections.

    I’m sorry for our GLA members. They seem to have made a go at using the system as much as is possible (which isn’t that much) to keep checks on the mayor, and a rational thought from any politically informed person ought to have been “With Ken/Boris as mayor we sure need more LibDem GLA members watching him”. But again, expecting any intelligent reporting on this is just expecting too much from the ranks of Brtiish journalists and media commentators. Most of the electorate are hardly aware that the GLA exists, let alone knowledgeable about its functions. We could, of course, have countered this by mounting a massive cross-London publicity campaign trying to deliver literature everywhere explaining our position. But, come on, given the powerlessness of the GLA, could any of us really be arsed?

  6. Talking about presentation style – I though Boris and Ken both gave very good speeches when the vote was announced. Brian’s speech was just flat which kind of summed up his style and campaign unfortunately.

  7. Doesn’t this sum up the whole problem with the mayor system? Someone who has the right technical skills for the job may not have the glib manner needed to provide an entertaining speech. Someone with the glib manner to provide an entertaining speech may not have the techical skills needed to do the job. As you suggest, it’s the glib manner that will win the vote.

  8. I have to admit I agree. I thought democracy that was worth the name was supposed to have checks and balances? The London Mayor is certainly not a particularly powerful figure but there is pretty much nothing to stop them from doing whatever they want. At least Livingstone had to rely on the Greens for support to stop things from being blocked in the Assembly. What check is there going to be on Boris?

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