There’s a lot of unfortunate stuff flying around at the moment, because the battle for the Lib Dem leadership is hotting up a little. It needed to! Whilst it is great that our two candidates agree on so much, we do need to pry open the differences between them if we are to make a choice. We do need to be careful, though, that some of the things we say could come back to haunt us if our preferred candidate doesn’t win!
That said, nothing of the two televised debates we have seen has changed my view that Chris Huhne is the stronger of the two candidates. The Question Time performances will, I suspect, have brought many floating voters into the Huhne camp. Although Clegg recovered well, it was clear that Huhne appeared throughout to be comfortable with every question – and with a firm grip on every policy area. The differences are not huge – both are very able – but Clegg sometimes appears to be wrong-footed. Sometimes Clegg can have a tendency to fall back on over-long stories which are not strong enough to back the point he is trying to make. Paxman or Humphries would not afford him that luxury.
A lot has been made of a couple of minor inconsistencies between things which Clegg has appeared to say in the past and his position today. I actually am willing to accept that reporters are not always accurate – and I am willing to also accept that sometimes in politics it is legitimate to change your view slightly. But saying ‘I don’t remember saying x’ is weak – and Dimbleby and others have a tendency to ask such questions armed with the relevant quote. I think Clegg needs to answer such questions more directly – and for his supporters to cry foul when Huhne’s supporters point out these inconsistencies is missing the point. The point is that we are more forgiving than the media or the opposition would be.
I like Nick Clegg, and I would happily serve under his leadership – but I also think Chris Huhne would be even better. And I don’t think trying to open up the differences between the two makes me ‘horrid’. I just want the best for my party.