Monday, January 09, 2006

Historical jetsam

'The Liberal Democrats are not a serious national party. They have had no power since the advent of the universal franchise, and have no prospect of it. They are a dustbin party, a middle-ground asylum party, a none-of-the-above party, a wine-and-cheese party, a cheap peerage party, a memorial to Gladstone and Lloyd George party. They are historical jetsam.'

Simon Jenkins laying into the failure of the Liberal Democrats and pointing out the precipice over which they currently dangle.

Regardless of who takes over the party, they may face an imminent problem more serious than the internecine warfare likely to break out - their biggest donor is considering withdrawing his support from the party. As in most things, follow the money...
'... he is shell-shocked by what has happened. He invested the money... because he believed in Charles Kennedy, not the others.'

It is interesting that Campbell is being backed by so many of the new stars in the party's rather bleak galaxy - David Laws, Ed Davey, Nick Clegg and Vince Cable are amongst the half of the parliamentary party who have declared their support for the Minger. These people know that Merciless will be rattling towards 70 when the next election comes round and facing a Labour leader in his mid 50s and a Tory leader in his early 40s. They will be better placed to mount their own challenge given another four or five years of manoeuvring and that should be enough to see off the threat from Sharky Hughes. They'd like to go now, but the risk of dividing the Campbell vote and letting Hughes in the back door is too high.

Hughes is still circling - maintaining the moral high ground incumbent on the party's President and busying himself with organising the election process itself. With no sense of irony, the Times had him accusing fellow MPs of disloyalty to Kennedy. He is the big threat to the Campbell axis - the one who might just snatch the election by appealing directly to the membership and thus landing the parliamentary party with a leader that they find instantly unpopular. At least it took a few years for them to screw their courage to the sticking post and ram the knife into Kennedy, Hughes would inspire similar desires within seconds. To get rid of a second leader before the next election would be too much to bear and would raise the possibility of a political schism, with some of the new breed of Liberal Democrats taking their seats and their political futures off towards the Cameronian Tory party. The Guardian describes Hughes as 'hard to dislike' - but, trust me, it IS worth the effort.

He seems to have a problem in finding 7 MPs to countersign his nomination and his nomination could trigger David Oaten's campaign machine to whirr into action (that's the one that the loyal and supportive Mr Oaten has had on standby for weeks now). If Hughes doesn't run, then Oaten might not, so leaving the membership fuming as they don't get a chance to vote on their next leader. Not so much one member, one vote as 62 members, one vote.

There are those ready to step into the breach if the party bigwigs let them down - Phil Willis has declared that he is ready to stand if nobody else can be bothered and there's still John. There's always John. Support is flooding in from across the country and with a lack of irony worthy of Simon Hughes, John has asked my new colleague across the way to have any emails sent forwarded to him.

I'm only too glad to make the same promise and if any paid-up Liberal Democrat members reading want to back him through this site, I promise to pass your details on to the great man. Although the irony of John asking for postal support is not lost on me.
Nothing will get in the way of giving the party the leader it deserves.

David Laws tries to put some gloss on their elimination of Kennedy through briefing and backstabbing by using the excuse that they had no choice. No mention that as recently as last May, all bar one of the Liberal Democrat MPs thought that Charlie was entirely fit to lead the party, despite an ongoing drink problem and embarrassing moments during the campaign, so they proposed him for leader again. Curiously, there is a little honour in John Hemming's refusal to sign the nomination papers - he didn't think Charlie was up to it from day one, so to do otherwise would have been dishonest.

Alongside the Guardian and the BBC, our chosen candidate has failed to register with Ladbrokes' betting - even Sarah 'Endof' Teather gets in at 66/1 and Betfair offers worse odds...

Why can't they see what we can?


Jonathan said...

"They'd like to go now, but the risk of dividing the Campbell vote and letting Hughes in the back door is too high."

This is fantasy. The Lib Dems use the alternative vote in leadership elections.

Bob Piper said...

Surely, given his arse-licking around Mike Whitby the Lib Dem's can see the advantage of electing our boy to do his stuff with young Cameron? What on earth are these people playing at.? See the light... vote Hemming, get Cameron!

PoliticalHack said...

Fair comment, Jonathan.

But the risk still remains that Campbell might end up third and his votes split to let Hughes in against Oaten. The figures seem unlikely, but once the voting opens up to the membership, all bets are off.

Elephunt said...

I think momentum is building behind Hemming's bid for leadership.It's currently 'Labour only' momentum but it's a start.