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Thursday, January 12, 2006


The Liberal Democrats leadership race is starting to heat up at last. Any chance of a coronation has gone out of the window and a good thing too. Sir Menzies Campbell's performance in Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday seems to have temporarily derailed his bandwagon and caused some members to pause and think about who they will support.

Sir Menzies Campbell and Mark Oaten are the two declared candidates but it is believed that Party President, Simon Hughes will join them today. There is also speculation that Eastleigh MP, Chris Huhne will throw his hat in the ring. Although Chris Huhne has only been an MP for eight months he was previously an MEP and is well-respected within the party. His candidacy will add a welcome dimension to the debate by ensuring that it become more issue focussed.

Chris chaired the party's public services commission, on which I was the Welsh representative a few years ago. The emphasis that commission's final report put on devolution and local empowerment still remains a welcome counterpoint to the free market views of some of the Orangistas.

Interestingly, a rumour doing the rounds yesterday that Mark Oaten had only been able to attract one other MP, his acolyte Lembit Opik, to sign his nomination form seems to be untrue. A suggestion that he might be loaned some of the MPs who have declared for other candidates so as to ensure that he gets into the race also appears to be unsubstantiated. Nevertheless, the idea that he might have insufficient support amongst the Parliamentary Party has succeeded in stalling his campaign, albeit temporarily.

As well as highlighting issues, particularly the environment, that would have otherwise been forgotten, I'm hoping Chris is going to win.

While the bookies would bet against it, I still think we may see a surprise winner from outside the "field of three".


If politics is a greasy pole, as Charles Kennedy has sadly discovered, then his obvious successor, Simon Hughes, now needs to seize that pole with a very firm grip.

Hughes is respected in all quarters as decent, compassionate, urbane, witty, intelligent, principled and also vastly experienced.

More to the point, for the future of the Lib Dems, he is hugely popular with the public.

For all his personal qualities, that easy affection which people from all walks of life offer him is the most significant reason why he is the right man to lead them into a share of Government later this year.

After half a generation of a "New Labour" experiment that has ended up looking as clueless and lacklustre as the dying and dreary Conservative administration it replaced, Britain is long overdue the freshness and vitality that has always characterised the bulk of the Liberal Democrat policy canon.

That's why the Lib Dem membership owe it to the country to choose the man whose electability offers them the best chance of a serious role in Government that has beckoned many times but hitherto remained tantalisingly just out of reach.

In short: cometh the hour, cometh Mr Hughes.
Dr Crippen highlights a serious consideration re; Ming ...
I think it is worth pointing out that I have allowed the last comment from Welsh Spin in the interests of freedom of debate but that no doctor could make such a diagnosis without examining the patient and as such this needs to be taken with a very large dose of salt.
Fair enough.

It is a very difficult issue to identify tastefully - it occurs that perhaps this may be the subtext to all the cliches about young cardinals electing old popes.

As Dr Crippen himself states, the only people who can really give an authorative opinion are his oncologists. However if Kennedy's alchohol problems and Blair's heart murmurs are legitimate issues of public interests then on the basis that the Lib Dems aspire to be a party of government, so is this.
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