Tag Archives: leadership-contest

The verdict on Huhne and Clegg’s fuzzy polls

Oh dear, it’s all starting to get very silly indeed.

First of all, there is this “independent” poll put out by Team Huhne, which indicates a huge surge for Huhne in the last few days. I emailed them to ask the identity of these pollsters, only to be asked to ring Anna Werrin (Huhne’s campaign manager). If you can’t tell me who they are by email, I can’t blog it. It all sounds a bit whiffy to me.

Then there is Team Clegg, assuring us that they’ve canvassed 11,000 and that the 8,000 who have expressed a preference have come out 60-40 for Clegg. Hmmm… that’s a lot of “antis”, most of whom you can probably put down as Huhne supporters. Put that raw data through anything resembling the Richmond formula (they aren’t telling to what extent this canvass data is breaking down into “hard” and “soft” support, unsurprisingly) and I think you’ll find it ends up much closer. Come on lads, we’ve all done canvassing 101 haven’t we?

Speaking personally, my instincts tell me that Clegg will win, but that it will be close. Anecdotally, Huhne seems to be going down much better with older members and there are a lot of those. The YouGov poll is particularly dubious because although Peter Kellner has been keen to point out that it has been weighted according to age, it doesn’t appear to take into account the likelihood that those who aren’t following this election online (i.e. people who don’t vote in YouGov polls) are likely to be experiencing a very different election compared with those of us – of whatever age – who are.

On the other hand, there is the donkey vote factor, the same factor that saw MEPs getting reselected with 70-90% of the vote last month. Faced with that big long list of the great and good that Clegg has behind him, I find it hard to believe a lot of armchair members won’t unthinkingly vote for him regardless of anything else. The only reason I don’t think that will be as big a factor as it could be is that Team Clegg appear to consider pushing out paper to be beneath them, while Team Huhne have been putting much more out.

So I think Huhne will improve on his 42% last time, but not quite well enough. Either way, the victor had better recognise that they have a lot to prove to pretty much half of the party. It won’t be much of a mandate, so don’t expect an easy ride folks!

Clegg and Huhne on Today: the verdict

I’ve just been listening to Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne’s head-to-head on the Today Programme. For a Cleggite, it made for pretty uncomfortable listening.

While I think Clegg was significantly better than Huhne at the hustings last week, the broadcast media is the real battleground in the struggle to win the hearts and minds of the public. And once again, Clegg came off as dramatically weaker than Huhne.

The difference was obvious. Huhne trotted off a series of clear and concise soundbites while Clegg waffled. It isn’t as if this problem hasn’t been remarked upon before; why hasn’t Clegg sorted it out?

And the problem goes a little deeper. Huhne has spent the last week at the centre of the party funding scandal for doing little more than opportunistically reporting the whole Abrahamsgate affair to the police. He even used those sharp elbows of his to get in on the BBC’s report on Vince Cable’s desire to appear on Strictly Come Dancing. Clegg meanwhile has only popped up to declare that he is expecting to win – a process story.

My entirely anecdotal evidence suggests that most over-40s I know seem to be coming out for Huhne. Given the over-representation of young people contributing to it, I am doubtful that YouGov’s poll over the weekend should have given Clegg quite as strong a position as it should have. Either way, he isn’t giving any late voters any strong reasons to vote for him.

Assuming he does get elected however, I do hope he will spend the Christmas break working out where he went wrong over the campaign and getting some serious media training.

Take it down, Chris (UPDATE)

Oh dear, and he was doing so well.

Linda Jack and Charlotte Gore have condemned Chris Huhne’s campaign for publishing an endorsement by Chris Clarke which contains a blatant attack on Nick Clegg, branding him a Tory (unless there is a third candidate of whom I was previously unaware). It’s negative. It’s untrue.

Up until now I’ve not been that fussed about the level of yah-boo in this contest. A lot of Chris’ attempts to define himself have been leapt upon by his opponents as implicit attacks on Nick Clegg. I don’t think that is fair, and having spoken to members of his campaign team I’m very conscious of how keen (at least some of them) are to make this a fair fight.

But as Charlotte says, this is crossing a line. It has handed Chris’ opponents to take the gloves off themselves. He ought to take that quote down immediately, and not use Chris Clarke on any of his subsequent publicity materials.

UPDATE: The offending quote has been taken down. I still think the damage has been done and that the whole post should be taken down as a symbolic gesture, but at least it suggests they’re listening. Power of the blog, eh?

UPDATE 2: Another comment has now been added acknowledging that the article has been edited and that Anna Werrin is taking responsibility, which is much better and will hopefully defuse the situation. As Sam writes below, it does seem to have been cock up rather than conspiracy (although as someone who has chronicled Team Clegg’s various cock ups over the weeks, I have to say such things shouldn’t be treated too lightly).

Rethinking policy

Over at OpenDemocracy / OurKingdom, I’ve written a think piece about how we might rethink the Lib Dems’ policy making process. There’s lots more I could have put in there about increasing the level of deliberation and the role of local parties in the process, but I was wary of getting too technical.

With the leadership debate getting into the swing of things, now would seem like a good time to have a debate on this. This is only my first attempt to get my head around things; I accept for example that in practice the difference between short term policy and long term vision is not as clear cut as it might be. But overall, I stand by my overall claim that the party needs to put much more emphasis on vision and worry less about the parliamentary party’s role in developing and adapting policy.

Celebs vs Cerebral

Candidate A has an article in the Telegraph today bigging up his social justice credentials. Candidate B has an article in the Observer today bigging up his celebrity friends and that he’ll be meeting Halle Berry this week.

Candidate A is definitely giving the activists, including me, what they want. But Candidate B seems to be doing a much better job at communicating with broader public.

It seems to me that if Candidate B is to avoid being dismissed as a bit of fluff, he has got to start offering the membership a bit of meat. But if Candidate A is to look credible, he has got to demonstrate he can widen his appeal.

The druggie versus the hoodie

What’s worse? Huhne’s LSD-associated past, or Clegg’s past encounter with peyote?

Seriously for a minute, is that Times article on Huhne accurate? According to it, Huhne’s name is on the article. But according to the copy which I pilfered from that nice Mr Fawkes (February 2006, by the way), no name appears anywhere on the article, probably because if anyone admitted to writing the article they’d have been kicked out of university.

Isis article on drugs

Can anyone see Huhne’s name on this page? I’ll happily issue a correction if I’ve missed it. But I suspect that Guido would have made rather more of it at the time if that was the case. I notice that the Times chooses its words carefully such as stating that his byline was “attached” and has not published the article on its site as proof. Why would that be?

Nick Clegg: burying Caesar?

Am I the only one who finds it quite confusing that LibDems4Chris is written by a guy called Nick?

For the record, I really am still genuinely undecided. My assessment is that Chris is the better strategist and Nick is the better communicator. Nick will win my vote if he can convince me he has some idea about how the party must organise and Chris will win my vote if he can overcome his seemingly poor reputation within certain parts of the media. The latter is important because certain journalists really do seem to have their knives out for him and viscerally dislike him in a way that could be quite damaging. Having seen what they did to Ming, that is currently toppermost on my mind.

Nick Clegg’s speech yesterday was interesting. Unlike Huhne, he made a point of paying tribute to Ming at the start. Unlike Huhne, he laid into Ming’s tenure. Despite crediting Ming for giving the party a clear sense of direction and purpose, he goes on to say that:

For two years now, the Liberal Democrats have been caught up in internal self-analysis. We cannot go on testing the patience of the British people.

I’m not sure these two conflicting statements make any sense together. Without the boring old navel-gazing that Clegg deplores, we would not have the sense of direction and purpose that he praises. And it was Ming, as Chair of the party’s policy, who oversaw that introspection, so it is he, by association, that Clegg is blaming for the party’s shortcomings. To paraphrase another Shakespeare play, is that a dagger I see before me?

The bottom line is that a bit of self-analysis was sorely needed after the 2005 General Election. The last Lib Dem General Election campaign was the least inward-looking we had ever fought; it was did the least to “stand up for the liberal instincts of the British people.”

I suspect that Clegg knows this. Rather, I suspect this is a pitch for that school of activist who has no time for the party’s policy development and prefers, to use Simon Titley’s words, “mindless activism“. This is a way of pushing people’s buttons, of posititioning himself as the blokey, action guy as opposed to the unforgiveably cerebral Huhne. Clearly Team Clegg have been reading The Political Brain during their summer holidays.

Fair play to them. It is something that Huhne can’t afford to be blind to. He needs to find a way of neutering this particular line of attack, and quickly. But by the same token, Clegg needs to be careful not to let himself become a prisoner of his own rhetoric. Despite our democratic structures, the research shows (my research in fact, hem hem), that the Liberal Democrats are in fact the least introspective of the three main parties. It hasn’t gained us electoral pre-eminence. There is virtue in a degree of introspection: I would argue that the “meeting the challenge” project launched by Charles Kennedy (and it is all too notable that I know it as the “meeting the challenge” project, not the allegedly “Trust in People: Make Britain free, fair and green“), has still not managed to give us anything like the sort of coherence that we need. As I wrote on Monday, until our long term aspirations are a closer fit with our short term commitments, we will continue to look opportunistic (because that is exactly what we are being). Nick can flutter his eyelashes at the media as much as he likes, but they’ll continue to give us a hard time if they continue to perceive us as little more than a bunch of chancers. In short, he is in danger of adopting a strategy that will neutralise his greatest single selling point.

EXCLUSIVE: Team Kennedy backs Huhne (updated)

Originally posted: 19 October 2007, 10.27am.

Thus far, it has looked like Nick Clegg has been getting it all his own way with regard to getting public support from the party establishment. The support of Steve Webb and Paddy Ashdown are, for differing reasons, clearly coups.

But he hasn’t entirely had it his own way. I understand that both Anna Werrin and Dick Newby – the key figures of the Charles Kennedy leadership team – have joined Chris Huhne’s campaign. Is this tacit endorsement of the former leader himself? Both have remained close to him.

UPDATE: Late news here, but Candy Piercy, who ran Charles Kennedy’s leadership campaign in 1999, has also joined Team Huhne.