The only thing that should surprise us about the defection of Adrian Graves is that a newspaper of the calibre of The Independent should think it so significant. Suffolk West shares many things with my own constituency, Wycombe. One of the things our constituencies share is that you could pin a blue rosette onto a gibbon and produce a Tory MP. In Wycombe as in Suffolk, Labour are in second place – so why would anyone want to be the Lib Dem PPC? The reasons Wycombe has consistently remained safe for the Tories says more about our ludicrously unfair electoral system than anything else. But change, if it is to come, must come from third placed Liberal Democrats. 1997 marked a high tide for the Labour vote. Desperately demoralised and unpopular Tories still managed to hold on in the face of a huge landslide for ‘New Labour’. A local Labour activist accused us of keeping Labour out of power in Wycombe – but he’s sadly mistaken in thinking that if we didn’t stand, all of our votes woud go Labour’s way. Because of the hugely tribal nature of Tory/Labour support, there’s a fair proportion of any electorate who would NEVER vote Labour under any circumstances. But for Wycombe to return a Lib Dem requires years of consistent hard work. It can be done – and Lib Dems have done it in many places – but it ain’t easy and there are no shortcuts. I suspect Adrian’s defection has more to do with his own ambition and frustration than any altruistic notions. His blue rosette no doubt awaits – but for me, he will just be a gibbon.
The rise of Chris Huhne in this leadership campaign comes as no surprise to me. When he entered the chase as an outside bet, quite a few people quipped ‘Chris Who?’. But that’s actually the point. The only reason he started in fourth place was his relatively low profile. Those who knew something about him realised his potential. That’s why he has had no difficulty getting the required number of MPs to back his bid, and why new backers emerge daily (the latest being Clare Rayner). I firmly believe that as he gains more media exposure over the next few weeks, more and more members will see that this is the man we need to give us distinctive vision and leadership. Some of his policies may be radical, but they are delivered with authority and clarity. Shouldn’t that be what Liberal Democrats do?
Meanwhile back at the leadership contest, surprise expressed over the number of bloggers backing Huhne has been replaced by worry on the part of supporters of the other two. The dynamics of the Lib Dem way of voting mean that ‘second’ (as the betting would suggest) only tells half of the story. The majority of members will take up the option to back a second choice candidate on the voting slips. Chris Huhne’s campaign has been gathering momentum steadily with every interview on TV, radio and in the press. I think this is because his ‘low start’ was based on the fact that many members just didn’t know that much about him. The more we see the more we like what we see. Given that so many members strongly identify themselves as ‘Mingers’ or ‘Hughesies’, we can guess that they won’t be giving many second preference votes to each other. The way I see it, Chris is likely to make it through the first count, and make the headlines with all of the second preference votes propelling him through the finish line.
You heard it here first.
Several people have contacted me to assure me that the Darbyshires are in fact real. Well I sincerely hope that someone who knows them can persuade them that what they have written is not wise, and not in the interests of they party they profess to support.
There is, I believe, a real issue to be addressed with regard to the private lives of our public servants. I am seeking adoption as a PPC this year. Friends often ask me why anyone would want to be an MP. It certainly isn’t the money – an MPs salary is good but not stellar. Then there is the whole question of having your private life held up for public scrutiny. In what other field or profession would it be considered reasonable to have the gutter press pry into your private life?
We are living in the 21st century. Surely a persons private relationships are no business of the public at large in most cases? The newspaper headlines today scream about ‘freefall’ for the Lib Dems in the wake of the weekend’s revelations. This is pure nonsense. There have been similar stories about MPs of all colours in the past, and there will be again in the future.
MPs are only human, like the rest of us. Perhaps we should start digging around in the private lives of newspaper editors and see how they like it!
Like many in the Lib Dem online community, I have watched with bemused fascination the unfolding soap opera that is Lib Dem Weblog war. The childish, narcissistic ramblings – and the inevitable spoof. I realise now that we’ve been framed. No Lib Dem activist would ever publish a post in which they make threats of libel action against someone who has produced a spoof of their website – and the go on to make potentially libellous allegations against one of our leadership candidates! You’ve been rumbled! Question is – are you Labour or Tory?