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Would Clegg become the 4th problem LD leader in a row?

October 17th, 2007

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    Could his actions last time undermine his campaign?

People have asked me repeatedly who I will back in this contest? My answer is that I’ll support whoever stands the best chance of stopping Nick Clegg who I fear could be the fourth problematical Lib Dem leader in a row.

A serious challenge that he will have to surmount, and which his opponents are already starting to exploit, is that he lacked the bottle to put himself forward in 2006 and was a key player in landing the party with the last mistake. That does not say much about Clegg’s political judgement.

He was the most vocal advocate of the “let’s have a caretaker leader” argument in the aftermath of the Kennedy departure – thus describing Ming in terms that helped to undermine his leadership from the start.

I have a long history of never being a supporter of whoever my party elects but believe that events have proved me right. All three leaders of the party since its foundation in 1987 – Ashdown, Kennedy and Campbell – left office when they were no longer able to command the full support of the party’s MPs. Unlike his two successors Ashdown was not forced out but his Bosnian job offer came just at a time when things were getting really difficult over the closeness of his links with Blair.

Clegg is the candidate of the party establishment which, given its record, is not a good recomendation. If the 2007 race goes to Clegg, as seems reasonably likely, I fear that he would become the fourth on that list.

Of the other possible contenders I’ve got a feeling that Julia Goldsworthy might just surprise everybody if she decides to run. She’s articlate, creative and can think on her feet. I could see her being a problem for Gord at PMQs because he often finds it difficult being criticised by bright women. She would certainly be better than Clegg who has a squeaky voice and never sounds as though he believes a word of what he is saying.

Chris Huhne, who ran last time, is a great thinker and smart media operator who could just be let down by his voice and presentation skills.

One factor that might help him, though, is that over the past year there has hardly been a weekend when he has not attended a local party funtion. He’s travelled the length and breadth of the country to get himself better known and this might pay off. He has a good stump speech which resonates well with many members. It is this group, of course, and not Daily Telegraph leader writers, who make the decision.

Ed Davey is someone I have known personally for many years. He’s very bright and I like him a lot. I just think that he lacks that killer instinct…. And, of course, there is Lembit who has a high profile and meets my main requirement of not being Nick Clegg!

As to the betting I am still in the US and it is illegal to gamble on the internet. I’ll make that call on my return!

Mike Smithson






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