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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Live blogging the leadership

The room where the announcement is to be made about the Liberal Democrat leadership is already packed out and rumours abound that the result is unbearably close. Journalists are speculating that Clegg has won by a sliver. Here in the Assembly people think that there may be less than 2,000 votes in it. We will see.

Paddy Ashdown has just told a journalist off for trying to prise the result out of him. He seemed to quite enjoy it. The journalist just looked uncomfortable.

14.30 - the BBC News 24 reporter has just said that the margin is less than 500 votes. The tension is unbearable.

Lembit is there. The close result shows the calibre of the two candidates he tells us. Whoever wins will have the full support of the party.

Sandra Gidley reminds us that both candidates are grown ups. Thank goodness for that. She says Ming was too cautious and that it was frustrating. The party needs to be bolder. Lembit supports that argument by praising Vince Cable.

Lembit says that Vince had the luxury of being free of having to face an election. "I like that kind of politics" he says!

14.35 - Vince enters the room to sustained applause. No dancing today. He tells us that he has no intention of announcing a military coup. He seems to forget that David Steel once led the Party. We are at our best as a party when we are challenging the establishment with a radical and liberal voice. Highlight of his acting leadership was the dance with Alesha.

Vince admits to voting more than once in the 'Strictly Come Dancing' Semi-Final. The old adage of vote early, vote often has a new meaning for the BBC he says.

The candidates come to the stage. Nick Clegg looks happy.

Total votes cast were 41,465

Nick Clegg: 20988
Chris Huhne: 20477

Gosh that was close.

Chris Huhne says we are still in the game and that we have just elected a leader who will take us onwards. Clegg says that his election marks a new beginning, a renewed ambition to reach out to the millions of people who share our values and do not yet vote for us. We want to change politics and Britain. He and Chris Huhne have been rivals, as of now they are colleagues once again.

He praises Vince for excelling as an economist, a wit and a ballroom dancer. He says Ming Campbell restored stability and professionalism to the party, without which we would not have the bright future that lies ahead of us.

Liberalism is the thread that holds together everything that this nation stands for. Pull out that thread and the fabric will crumble. He appeals for social justice and fairness. Our politics is broken, out of touch with people, out of touch with the modern world. His one ambition is to make Britain the liberal country that he believes people want it to be.

Why have we stopped imagining a better society? Labour and the Conservatives have governed in the same way. The challenge is to provide a liberal alternative to the discredited politics of big government. He wants to spend at least one day a week listening and campaigning outside of Westminster.

This is an unprecedented time of opportunity for liberalism in this country. Liberalism is the creed of our time. Labour and the Conservatives are mutating into each other, united in the defence of a system that has let people down. Liberal Democrats have the courage to imagine a better society. No more business as usual, no more government knows best. This is the beginning of Britain's Liberal future.

Update: David Cornock points out that Nick Clegg has got off to a good start by overcoming the curse of Lembit. It was a close run thing though. It is the first time I have voted for a winning leadership candidate as well.
"He seems to forget that David Steel once led the Party"

He was quite right - Steel didn't. He led the old Liberal party before the merger with the SDP in 1988 formed a new party officially known as the "Social and Liberal Democrats", led by Paddy Ashdown.

TEchnical distinction I know, but...
I think your party has just elected a nice person from a nice place, as Polly Toynbee might say. Clegg's proposals for community courts sitting in judgement on those guilty of anti-social behaviour show a profound misunderstanding of what it is like to live in an area that suffers from that kind of behaviour.

He has a bit of charisma, and he will do a good job of sounding like the voice of reason when compared with the leaders of either of the major parties. But I see nothing in Clegg that suggests he can move the Libs on from being a party for the upper middle-class with a conscience.
. . . . as I recall David Owen and David Steel were joint leaders of the SLD before Paddy got the job . . .
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