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Game On Jan 16

It’s been reported that Menzies Campbell intends to make age less of an issue in the leadership election by surrounding himself with younger people. He did so on TV this evening. Unfortuantely, the younger people in question were the three other candidates as Sky News hosted the first debate between the Campbell, Simon Hughes, Mark Oaten and Chris Huhne.

I hope I don’t have to sit through another Sky News debate. Topped with a simplistic package attempting to sum up the LibDems, and making some dubious comments – for example, wrongly equating support for civil liberties with being left wing (it’s being liberal) – the presentation was unimpressive. Sky’s rather dim summary on the party branded equated with “If the party wants more votes, it needs to appeal to more voters.” D’oh.

The debate itself was good, though, with all the candidates performing fairly well. There was plenty of agreement, which will hopefully put right those who thinks the party is drastically split on policy.

The presenter compared Chris Huhne’s time in parliament with Menzies Campbell’s longer service, perhaps not realising that Simon Hughes has been an MP for longer than Ming. For someone accused of being inexperienced, Huhne appeared at ease debating with the three media-appointed “big beasts” and made plenty of sensible points.

Ming Campbell was asked how many seats would be a good result at the next election and sensibly avoided setting himself up for a fall. Simon Hughes jumped straight in with 100 seats. It reminded me of his arbitrary promise, when standing for party president, to take the LibDem membership figure past that of Labour. Judging from the number of voters in this election, it’s barely moved.

There was no clear winner in the debate, and subtle policy differences only between the candidates. Campbell held his ground, although dodged a question on private involvement in the NHS. Given that Huhne should, by conventional wisdom, have been miles behind the other three and gave a strong performance, he was the candidate with whom I was most impressed.

Final note: well done to Rob Fenwick for submitting a question that was used, and to Tom Paul for getting an on-screen comment.

9 Responses

  1. 1

    Yes – I thought Huhne looked the most relaxed and got his points across effectively. If you didn’t know it you ceratinly wouldn’t have guessed that he was supposedly a poor media performer.

    Hughes came across positively but, as you say, it’s a bit early in the Parliament for a new leader to be limiting their ambitions to 100 seats!

    Oaten – class swot?

    Campbell – safe enough but looked drab compared to H&H. Contradicted himself on the women issue – first he said we had failed, then he said that we had just got a load of young women into Parliament.

  2. 2
    Rob F 

    Hughes didn’t limit our ambitions to 100 seats. He identified it as the low-water mark of the next election. ie we should seek to gain *AT LEAST* 100 seats.

  3. 3
    Rob F 

    PS – I agree there was no clear winner. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that the Sky presenter spent too much time talking herself, to allow the candidates to put points directly to one another.

  4. 4

    I’d love to us to get 100 seats at the next election, but I don’t think that, say, 90 – nearly a 50% increase – could be labelled a failure, but if you’ve specified 100 as your target, then it is. That’s why CK wouldn’t give a figure to the press before the 2005 election and why Ming didn’t give a figure this evening.

  5. 5

    I thought the format was pretty crap – more of a ‘joint interview’ than a debate – as Rob says, there wasn’t much opportunity for interaction between the candidates.

    Huhne was good – confident and quite succinct. Oaten put some flesh on the bones of ’21st century liberalism’ – even if, as with his comments on the NHS, it’s probably going to be unpopular in the party. Simon gives a really confident performance, but I cant help thinking he makes it up as he goes along (women candidates between May and conference?). Ming was okay, but looked slightly comfortable to me.

  6. 6

    You can’t have a good debate between four people – I’d like to see all the candidates take on each other one on one.

  7. 7

    I have seen who you are supporting Will – well done!

  8. 8

    “Grace Says:
    January 17th, 2006 at 10:02 pm
    I have seen who you are supporting Will – well done! ”

    It’s not Jack or Karen is it?

  1. […] He pledged that by the end of his term of office the LibDem’s membership would exceed that of Labour. Fair enough, he hasn’t left office yet, but there is no sign of us making any significant move towards this. This is the sort of grand talk – see his declaration on Sky News that we should win 100 seats in the next general election – that can come back to bite. I recall Simon also promising a youth branch at every university. Has this been achieved? No. What steps has Simon taken to make it happen? None that I’m aware of. […]