Despite huge backing (mostly from the Labour and Tory parties, to be fair), John Hemming has decided to pull out of the race for the leadership, after a detailed poll that showed a massive 92% of the Liberal Democrat party don't want him as leader. I can hear Hughes, Oaten et al drawing a collective sigh of relief that this colossus of British politics has agreed to give them a clear run at the electorate.
Sadly, he doesn't tell us who conducted the poll, what the sample size was and where the sample was obtained, when the poll was conducted and how, what questions were asked, what weighting was used, etc. Without that information, the polling information is highly suspect. Actually, it is worth less than a Big Brother vote. [EDIT: I've been told that the poll was conducted by YouGov, but I'm still calling on Cllr Hemming to release the full results of the poll. Just give us a link to the .pdf file from YouGov]
Compare and contrast this from the surrender note:
'only 14% of members believe I have the right experience to lead the party (70% do not). That does not surprise me as I have always been marginal about this. A few more years experience is really needed in parliament'with
'An argument is used by some MPs that I don't have that much experience as an MP. Given that I have 15 years experience as an elected politician and 22 years experience in running my own business I find that a bit unreasonable.'
'There is a report that Kennedy's Aides have indicated that I have no experience. The question is experience of what.I suppose I only have 22 years experience of running things including having taken part in running the largest local authority in the country as well as a number of commercial enterprises. Admittedly although I fought the 1983 election, I was not elected then unlike Charles Kennedy, but I feel that if people are trying to say I don't have experience then that is not based in fact.'Hardly being 'marginal' is it?
Then there's the original intention to stand solely to ensure that the membership had a choice (fire or frying-pan, I suppose). If that's the case, why wait until three other candidates have declared? He could have withdrawn much earlier in the week, rather than dragging this out and keeping the campaign going. But that wouldn't have fed the ego and the press profile, would it?
There's always next time. Simon Hughes won't go on for ever - although his speeches belie that feeling.