About 6 weeks ago I wrote about the Liberal Democrat leadership contest in the UK (click here if you want to read it). I lauded the process of the membership choosing the leader, and the value of having a debate about the future of the party amongst party members. That process is nearly over. The result is being announced this Thursday at 3pm UK time.
Peter Black, a Liberal Democrat member of the Welsh Parliament, suggests the result is too close to call. Simon Hughes is probably more my style, but I predict a win for Menzies Campbell. The other contestant, Chris Huhne, has done very well given he is such a newcomer to the House of Commons but is still seen as having a real chance. However, I’d still be surprised if he pulled it off. However, the beauty of member ballots is you can never be sure.
I am fairly sure the voting system in the leader ballot is preferential rather than the dismal first past the psot system, which makes picking the winner even harder, as it seems unlikely that any of the three candidates will get a majority in their right.
It has been an amazing time lately for that party. The leadership contest occured because the former leader resigned after admiting to a serious alcohol problem that he had repeatedly denied in the past. I thought the biggest challenge they had to overcome was the need to avoid having public spats with each other during the leadership contest. Instead, they endured a stereotypical British tabloid ‘rent boy’ scandal striking one of the original leadership contenders (now withdrawn from the contest), followed by a ‘sorry for being misleading in my statements about whether I might sometimes have had sex with other men’ scandal with another leadership contestant.
Despite all this negative publiclity, the party still had an amazing by-election triumph a couple of weeks ago in the seat of Dunfermline & West Fife, taking the safe seat from the Labour Party in the electorate adjoining the one represented by Labour’s PM in waiting Gordon Brown. This suggests they are still well placed to build on their support, whoever is the new leader. Issues such as their tax and foreign affairs policies seem to have been the subject of some debate during the leadership contest, but it appears to me mainly a matter of different views on what to emphasise, rather than diametrically opposed views amongst the leadership candidates.
If you want to read a fairly extensive article on the three leadership contestants and some of the key aspects of the Liberal Democrats, have a look at this piece in The Guardian.
I have had more than one person suggest to me that maybe the Australian Democrats shouldn’t have stopped at the ‘Leader who drinks alcohol’ media scandal, but should try the ‘rent boy’ and ‘OK I’m not gay but I am bisexual’ publicity stunts too as a way of increasing the party’s support. While it does seem to have somehow worked for our UK counterparts, I’m not sure there are any volunteers here for being the subject of the required breathless media beat-ups. I could certainly do without any more of that type of distorted publiclity.