Sunday, 21 October 2007

Liberal Democrats at the crossroads

The reputation of the Liberal Democrats has taking a battering recently. The demise of Charles Kennedy was painful to watch. However given that his colleagues were having to "cover up" for him over his alcohol addiction, I do not see that they had any alternative.
Then more recently we have seen the demise of Ming Campbell. There is no doubt that it is primarily the media who are to blame for his downfall, they are the ones that went on about his age. But the media want to shift responsibility, and are more interested in suggesting that it was the Parliamentary party who were to blame. As though every MP has to fall into line like a one party state. In fact the indiscretions of the Parliamentary Liberal Democrats were trivial affairs by comparison.
Oddly enough, I suspect Ming Campbell is probably more popular now than ever.
But we move on. I am optimistic that either candidate will be better at getting the message out to the electorate and will improve the fortunes of the party.
But there is still a choice to be made.
My ideal candidate is not standing.
She would be a good communicator (which was the real problem for Ming, the general public did not notice what he was saying).
She would be against replacing Trident.
In favour of a foreign policy that is more independent of the US.
She would be fully committed to improving pubic services.
She would appreciate that freedom is defined by more than the individual's relationship to the state, and that the externalities of markets can also be pernicious in how they effect the individual (global warming for example).
She would have a good understanding of non-economic values, such as education for education's sake, or for arts that can give people expression in life. A BBC that can take risks that private television companies will not take on.
She will encourage the many talented ethnic minority candidates to come through the party.
She will be very clear that global warming is the most important issue facing the world today.
She would want to demonstrate that she would improve the social fabric of society, the alienation of the poor and dispossesed is far worse in the UK as in many other European countries. Not only that, she will cooperate with the various communities to isolate the terrorist fringe, making sure good police work in intelligence locates the potential terrorists that threaten the way we live.
And of course, the leader doesn't have to be a woman, but it would be nice if she was.
Now none of the candidates believes in all of these things, but for now I think that Chris Huhne is the closest, he is smarter, a good communicator, and ideologically closer to the values I have outlined here.