Much has been written about the three candidates for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats. Today the ballot papers will be despatched to the 73,000 members. Although there’s over three weeks to get them sent back, most people who are going to vote will send them back almost immediately. I have a feeling that this contest is still wide open, but time is fast running out to persuade people who to vote for and why. The outcome will decide the future direction and profile for the Lib Dems through some difficult times ahead.
Why difficult times ahead? Well, not for any of the reasons that the tabloids would have us believe, that’s for certain. You average voter will have forgotten about the recent scandals quite soon, how many voters are still talking about Ron Davies or Stephen Milligan? No, the difficult times ahead stem more from the resurgeance of the Tories who’ve finally started to get their act together under the Eton boy. Unchecked they will be allowed to reinvent their image at just the right time to take advantage of the implosion of the Blair project and the undemocratic coronation of Gordon Brown.
If we don’t sort ourselves out we will get squeezed by a tidal wave of voters backing the Tories to get rid of tired Labour. We must not allow this to happen. Our message is distinct and different. We have so much to offer that is not on the agenda of either Labour or the Tories. But we have to work three times harder to make ourselves heard.
We must choose a leader who can boldly articulate our visions. Someone who is not afraid to put the environment at the top of the agenda. Someone who can make the case for difficult economic choices with authority and conviction. Someone who will be seen, not as the bridge to the future, but the man of today. That man is Chris Huhne. You know it makes sense.
After much soul searching, I decided that, on balance, I should support the initiative. I do believe in the importance of getting more people into government from all sections of our society. I think the Reflecting Britain initiative is a genuine attempt to focus more attention on our failure to get more female and ethnic minority candidates – and for that reason I applaud it. But I would also like to see the campaign focus on why we fail to attract more grass roots activists from ethnic minority backgrounds, for it is from the local activists that the politicians of the future must emerge. I also remain opposed to ‘positive descrimination’ and will resist any moves to use positive descrimination as a ‘quick fix’.