Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Lib Dems - Lambs to the slaughter or just Pointless?

The Liberal Democrat leadership election hasn't really taken the country by storm. There hasn't been a particularly bizarre candidate nominated solely in the hope that a thrashing by the members will shut them and their followers up. There hasn't been an unresignation by Nick Clegg. There doesn't seem to have been much debate about actual policy or attempting to determine what is the Liberal Democrat answer to the questions of the day.

In fact all I've really noticed are:
  • Norman Lamb has drifted into being the classic candidate for whom nearly every speech could be summed up as "Noun, verb, [Single subject]". Yes mental health is important and yes he was an outstanding minister at the Department of Health, but one almost wants to ask "So Norman, apart from mental health...". Is he just playing one bit of his record or something else? It reminds me a bit of Chris Huhne's leadership bid in 2006 when at times it seemed he was really seeking the Environment portolio (in the days before Climate Change was split off) at least until scandals and performance doubts engulfed all his rivals. But if Lamb wants to be the party's Health spokesperson then surely the post would be his for the asking?
  • Tim Farron seems to have spent the campaign alternating between an over-enthusiastic self-righteous type (well he is seeking a post first held by Paddy Ashdown) and going all defensive about his faith and voting record. There are people of faith in all parties but the Lib Dems have a particularly strong secularist tendency that is unforgiving of voting records on certain issues. But also Farron seems to be wriggling on technicalities when his voting record was being brought up as early as 2010 when he first stood for the deputy leadership and then the party presidency.
  • For the most part Lamb is backed by ex-ministers and party grandees whilst Farron is mainly backed by MPs who were on the backbenches in the Coalition (including all the ones still in the Commons) and various left-leaning liberals although there are some exceptions in both camps.
  • And there was an incident with some Lamb supporters employing "push polling" techniques to spread attacks on Farron to members. Lamb had no awareness of this but as a key criteria for a leader is the ability to keep control of one's supporters it doesn't reflect well on him.
And that's mainly it. But there are some potential jokes for whichever is elected leader. Lamb has already made one about his wife Mary and their children - "Mary had a little Lamb". If he's elected leader then we'll get lots of lamb jokes.

Tim Farron may be either praising or cursing an edition of Pointless from a couple of years ago. One of the rounds was on Lib Dem MPs elected in 2010 and 100 members of the public had one minute to name as many as possible. This unscientific process found that even Vince Cable was named by less than one in five. But many MPs fared worse (I don't know how Lamb did) with Tim Farron being named by nobody at all. Yes Tim Farron was Pointless.

(Being unknown during the Coalition may be an advantage or not. On the one hand they would be a fresh face. On the other hand having rebelled on something unpopular the party did is more useful when people noticed you doing it at the time.)

Soon we'll find out who the new leader is and where they'll try to go.

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