Yesterday's Lib Dem leadership hustings took place at the University of Southampton.
Yesterday’s Lib Dem leadership hustings were very illuminating. Talking to Lib Dem members there, not being one myself, opinion was a lot more mixed than I feel it should have been. Tim Farron won it by a country mile so far as I’m concerned.
Farron praised the work of the Lib Dems in government- perhaps a risky tactic, but it forms part of his overall message. To him, the Lib Dems need to win: he’s ‘sick to the back teeth of being right, but losing anyway’, and to say any party activist that’s ever lost an election feels otherwise would be a bare faced lie. Simultaneously, to say that anyone should enter politics and not want to win would be erroneous, while the famous ‘honourable loser’ culture within the Liberals and latterly the Lib Dems has traditionally been incredibly strong. If you enter politics and rule out any kind of power, and the drawbacks that come with power, you may as well not be in politics.
Those that didn’t think Farron had won overwhelmingly cited his rhetoric on inequality. After telling an emotional story about his childhood, he said that ‘we should be outraged at the immorality of inequality. But looking at my childhood, I'm outraged at the stupidity of inequality’. He was referencing the fact that so many in our country aren’t given opportunities to better themselves and play a more active role in society, and went on to complain about Conservative plans to abolish housing associations. This sounds left wing, but offering people opportunities to better themselves rather than simply expanding the poverty trap further is the moral and correct stance. He’s obviously and, as far as I see, correctly passionate about this.
Some there saw it as unsustainable: this sounds like a left-wing stance, you could easily argue that the left is overcrowded with the Greens, the SNP and a handful of small splinter parties also challenging Labour for left-wing votes. A Labour resurgence would, to them, eat away at Lib Dem support. I believe they’re wrong. I believe these are centrist positions, and I believe the Lib Dems can only recover with policies that transcend the traditional political spectrum. Even if they were on the left, Labour show few signs of either becoming electable again in the near future or swinging back from the left.
Farron spoke passionately almost to the point of being cheesy. I have the feeling that he captured the mood of many who were distraught at their local counts, and many that were inspired to join or re-join the party after the election. Norman Lamb, by contrast, spoke rather boringly mostly about the Liberal movements of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Lamb made some brilliant points, especially on mental health. ‘How is it be right that if you have cancer, you have a right to see a specialist within 2 weeks but if you have psychosis you have no right?’ Of course this resonates with party members, as it resonates with the public at large: we do not do enough to combat mental health issues in this country. We like to ignore things you can’t physically see, and that’s one of our ills that the Lib Dems should be campaigning to change.
Rather brilliantly, he also spoke at length with Leo Gauvain of SUSUtv on the legalisation of Marijuana. Evidently he’s a strong advocate, although I’m sure the topic must have thrown his student interviewer off a little.
Despite being an obviously good politician, Lamb did lose. His message was all over the place, and he seemed to be more interested in creating a Liberal movement that frankly hasn’t been possible in decades; where Lamb seems to be under the impression that students are still liberal at heart, I think he’ll find the political landscape of the student population has changed a lot since the 1960s. Today’s students are split between the conservatives with a small c, and Labour with a big L.
Overall, Farron’s message shone through. The Lib Dems need to put forward big solutions to fix big problems, and to fix big problems the Lib Dems need to win. Of the Lib Dem councillors I spoke to after the debate, this message rang home the most. Tim convinced me, and I’m a Labour party member. If he were standing in the Labour leadership elections, I’d vote for him: a man of integrity, whose priorities are right and whose passion is inspirational. #Tim2LeadBLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS