I am quite upbeat about the choice that faces the Liberal Democrats this leadership election. I am also pleasantly impressed with the choices on offer for the European Parliament candidates list and more provincially,the Mayor and Assembly for London.
Talented, successful, interesting people.
As for the leadership:
Chris Huhne is a successful businessman with a brain. As an economics journalist he was an insightful commentator for The Independent. The way that he set up what has become Fitch IBCA- the rating agency- reveals a clear business brain. He is internationally aware- in addition to having been a MEP, his wife is Greek. He is also thoughtful about the issue of Land tax, which I believe is an area that merits substantial investigation by our policy wonks. Chris has been highly impressive in promoting the green agenda inside the Party and outside.
His downsides? Well, relatively small. Arguably his name Chris Who-he? would probably be the joke of the cartoonists and his slightly grey appearance. The only really substantive issues seem to be that he can be abrasive and appear arrogant, but I do not think that these are necessarily disadvantages in a politician, but Chris is certainly not a "lovable" figure. Some have said that Eastleigh is a tricky seat to defend, but to be honest I think that this is a certain amount of wishful talk from Conservatives. They argue that while Labour would find Huhne more to their taste, Conservatives would not be attracted to Huhne- obvious nonsense but which could become conventional wisdom.
Nick Clegg is a high flying civil servant who came to the Liberal Democrats on a point of principle. He has both a high IQ and a high EQ- and this wins him substantial personal loyalty. He comes from a cosmopolitan and international background- Russian and Dutch family and a a Spanish wife mean Nick famously speaks five languages. As Home affairs spokesman he put forward a genuinely Liberal agenda for immigration in a way that will deliver the best outcome for our country. Though the Express and Mail chose only to focus on the amnesty for some illegals, in fact it was a masterly exposition of principled policy that I particularly applaud.
His downsides? Well, probably and paradoxically, the fact that he is reasonably attractive and relatively young. The cartoonists will probably try to label him as "Cameron lite". The fact that so many figures in the rather sheltered elite of the party have rallied to try to crown him king also makes me slightly uneasy. His constituency is safer, and some have said that he wins in the North but appeals to the South. However, though I will happily take support from any of the other parties, in my opinion, we need to make a stronger effort to increase the gains we make from Labour, while of course continuing our progress against the Tories. Can Clegg deliver?
So, I am genuinely undecided, but impressed with both candidates- indeed delighted.
Nevertheless, I will wait to see the substance from both camps before I commit to either.