Sunday, November 18, 2007

Can Chris Huhne Win?

I have just had the dubious pleasure of watching last week's Question Time and today's Politics Show, both featuring the two LibDem leadership candidates. Question Time was an inconclusive and very boring score draw.The Politics Show, however, was far more exciting. Jon Sopel produced a memo written by someone on Huhne's leadership campaign called 'Calamity Clegg'. It was clear that Huhne was unaware of it and he made a good fist of repudiating it. However, Clegg was clearly fuming and they have a five minute barney about it. Watch it HERE.

Anyone who was thinking of voting LibDem will have been profundly put off by the whole unedifying episode. (See viewers' comments HERE). Clegg didn't come out of it well either, reacting very huffily and appearing quite shaken by the whole episode. It blew apart any impression that the two would be able to work hand in glove when it is all over. Indeed, if Clegg wins, it wouldn't surprise me now if he excludes Huhne or Huhne decides not to be part of Clegg's team. However....

And it's a big however. I'm not so sure Clegg is the shoo-in most of us thought he would be. Huhne has consistently come up with interesting ideas throughout this contest while Clegg has played safe. Remember the last time that happened? It was in 2005 when the Davis campaign did the same thing - and look what happened. We must remember that it is LibDem activists who have the vote in this contest and they are traditionally very wary of people like Nick Clegg. It would not at all surprise me if Chris Huhne was coming up on the rails fast. Today's programme certainly won't have helped Huhne, but I doubt whether it's fatal.

The problem both of them have is that they seem unable to articulate a vision for the LibDems. There's no narrative, no exciting call to arms. Their answers on all sorts of issues are just totally uninspiring. I contrast their performances with those of Cameron and Davis during the Tory leadership contest, where people really felt that both of them were articulating visions of what the party needed to do. There were differences between them, but the two of them were the voices of sweet reason in their conduct with one another - something the party is now reaping the rewards from. Huhne and Clegg are developing something which appears to be bordering on intense dislike and irritation with one another. It spilled over in the Sopel interview in a way which may well come back to haunt them.

UPDATE: Guto Harri has a good piece HERE. I liked his opening para... "It is striking - within a party that's generally regarded as nice - how nasty the Liberal Democrats are quietly capable of being."

Hattip to Norfolk Blogger for Anything to win logo.

36 comments:

The Half-Blood Welshman said...

It's a bit unfortunate as well that in his rebuttal Clegg used the phrase "blue in the face." Given that people keep accusing him of being a not so closet Tory, it is unfortunate that he has now associated his policy agenda with the colour blue...

Anonymous said...

What a hoot!! Better than the brawl in the hall in stormont - well almost! I really thought Clegg was doing very well making Hulne look like a nodding dog agreeing with everything clegg said.

At least half an apology is better than none - or is it? Too late from hence forth it is now 'calamity clegg' - he'll never get rid of that now, its much too catchy.

(Ian are you putting on weight?)
Daisy.

Windsor Tripehound said...

Can Chris Huhne win?

He might win the leadership contest, but he's unlikely the win in Eastleigh at the next general election.

Interesting when your leader loses his seat.

Robin Young said...

Iain, With respect I think Chris Huhne is a lot better expounding a narrative and vision about the urgency of taking effective action to deal with the environmental crisis of climate change than your beloved leader with his follow-my-bike limo, his rooftop windmill and his ever-enlarging carbon footprint.
Daisy, aka anonymous: I'm not sure that Clegg will be so-long lumbered with Calamity Clegg. Ming the Merciless didn't last long, did he?

Alex said...

Huhne's defeat at the next general election is pretty much a foregone conclusion. With Mark Oaten replaced by serial loser Martin Tod in Winchester, and Sandra Gidley hanging in by the tiniest of margins in Romsey last time round against an inclreasingly impressive Caroline Nokes, Huhne has the safest of the 3 LibDem seats in Hampshire, but that is a bit like having the safest deckchair on the Titanic.

Valleys Mam said...

It was embaressing - I dont know who came of worse.But the LD party was really hit.I wouldnt vote for them now in a month of Sundays.

Clegg looked like a folorn prefect and Hulne like the school bully.
I am looking for a party to support - havent found one yet.
Sad to be a political orphan

Anonymous said...

a big part of the victory of Cameron, was the the civilised nature of the campaign, it was entirely civilised, and both men grew in stature because of it. Afterwards, Cameron was big enough, and Davis, in defeat grown up enough, to take what is probably the biggest job in opposition outside of being Leader of the opposition.

This aproach is now impossible for the Libdems, and if Clegg wins, but only slightly, he will become a magnet for discontent if Clegg isnt able to make an early impression.

Anonymous said...

... "It is striking - within a party that's generally regarded as nice - how nasty the Liberal Democrats are quietly capable of being."

It hardly comes as a surprise to anyone who has been involved in a general or local election campaign. The Liberal Democrats have no qualms about being unscrupulous.

Anonymous said...

It is not just Huhne in danger of losing his seat. According to Electoral Calculus, if the Lib Dems continue to languish in the opinion polls, then Clegg will be out as well - along with two-thirds of Lib Dem MPs.

Randy Higham said...

Someone told me Huhne was quite arrogant about it.

Anonymous said...

It is clear that the betting price for Huhne is great value - from what I hear about the internal lib dem leadership camp's polls it is a very close run thing.

Henry rogers said...

And pursuing Alex's post, are Clegg and Cable any safer than Huhne at the next election, if present trends are not just a temporary Tory swing? Perhaps the Lib Dems really need to elect someone in the Lords as their next parliamentary leader? Still, that's their problem.

Anonymous said...

Well done Iain, Your Kenwood is working overtime. As a prospective Conservative candidate (which raises serious questions about the 'editorial' content of this blog) you ain't gonna come out in support of the candidate you most fear.

Iain Dale said...

Anonymous, could you point to anything in the above which could not be described as 'fair comment'? The LibDems' own Kenwood has been well and truly working overtime - and operated by Chris Huhne's campaign team it seems.

As to 'raising questions about the editorial content of this blog', you really do protest too much. Is it a secret I am a Conservative? Is it a secret I am on the Tory candidates list? Hardly. Why should my blog be treated any differently to any others?

JIMBO said...

Oh Dear...Nick Clegg Clearly has you worried

John Pardoe's Toupee said...

Notice how 'Calamity Clegg' says he disproves of innuendo being used in an internal Party election - the clear implication being,that in common with all other Lib Dem candidates he is more than happy to use innuendo against other parties.

What a ludicrous,irrelevant pair of clowns Huhne and Clegg are!

canvas said...

Chris Huhne proved himself to be a super slimeball on the Politics Show. I think Nick Clegg will benefit from this.

Why would Huhne think that he could get away with this kind of 'slur' on Clegg? Huhne is the kind of politican that I really detest.

Kris said...

ha,ha

we see the lib dem's true clolurs shining through

and that's why we hate them.

Chris Almighty! said...

Huhne's campaign is blaming an "overzealous" researcher for the title of the document that was sent (not "leaked") to the BBC. Presumably to provide ammo for today's encounter. Isn't "overzealous" the word used by Nixon to describe the hit men he used to perform dirty tricks on his opponents?

Huhne is not the kind of person who would allow an important document that was intended to provide ammo for the BBC to go out without his approval. And if he did - then he's incompetent.

Chris Huhne... Take your pick... Venal or incompetent.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious

First CH denies he has seen this, then quite happily lays into NC based on the content. Clearly its a theme that has been going round their campaign office. They are squabbling over nothing and that is the sign of a party (and leaders) with no vision or radical ideas.

Thank god, it means the in-fighting will probably continue after the result, I can't wait I'm sick of trying to work with some of them locally and I hope this hits their local vote.

Anon, Oxfordshire.

Anonymous said...

While I guess ardent Tories preceive slagging off Lib Dems as a relatively harmless way of alleviating their aggression, they might bear in mind that, because of our electoral system, David Cameron's best chance of getting into Downing Street after the next election(except as a guest)could well involve doing a deal with the Lib Dems. It surely makes no sense to drive them back into the arms of Gordon Brown.

canvas said...

I hope this is the end of Chris Huhne. Clegg is more 21st century.

By the way, Don't you think Michael Gove looks better with his glasses on? We know he is brainy - he should work the look.

Gove - Ditch the contact lenses! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Iain, Point taken! Although I don't think I was "protesting too much." Your response suggests that I was comparing you to other blogs/comments. I wasn't.

Anonymous said...

The comments on LD Voice were interesting. Apart from their obvious depair, the thing that struck me was that many are disappointed in their candidates. A common refrain is, "Where are Nick Clegg's famous communications skills?".

As a Tory I am starting to look forward to Nick Clegg's appointment. As one Lib Dem poster said, "He is not a patch on Cameron". He isn't.

I have read a report that Frank Field, commenting on the same site said that NC is the very sort of nice young man Labour voters like. His policies on Europe and immigration and his comments about Margaret Thatcher will go down like a lead balloon in Tory land.

A left-wing second rate Cameron might just be what the Tories ordered.

Atlas shrugged said...

Have a heart Iain it is an impossible enough job being a national Lib/Dem representative and absolutely impossible to be party leader without lying though ones teeth.

The all things to all people party cant win. Which is why they never will win.

But then winning overall political power with all that nasty responsibility is not the point of the masonic/BBC party currently called the Lib/Dem party.

The whole point of this current later day wig party is to promote the New World Order though assisting in the establishment of the EU. As the other parties especially the Neo Fascists who have systematically taken over the entire Labour movemnet are doing such a fantastic, criminal, lying job at it right now. There is no point in the Lib/Dem/BBC party remaining in British politics at all.

There funding will and largely has dried up, as has their entire reason for being.

So "its good-by from me".. "and its good-by from him and all of them."

tapestry said...

Sorry. Can't be bothered to get involved with such low-level irrelevant tripe. Let me know when this tedious sideshow ends, and I'll click back onto Dale's Diary.

British politics has been dragged low enough by Gordon Brown. We don't need any more basket cases.

Diablo said...

You got a reference on the Westminster Hour in relation to this Clegg/Huhne thingy, Iain.

Is it good that a "Conservative blogger" is quoted on such an insignificant issue?

Diablo said...

Atlas Shrugged (9.59pm) - I like the idea of a wig party. Where's it being held?

And we have to wear fancy dress too?

I think I'll come as Calamity Jane.

Anonymous said...

So Calamity Nick is now launching an official protest about l'affaire Huhne to senior LibDems. Makes him look petulant and spineless. If you can't stand the heat, give up your ambition to be a top chef.

Hats off said...

Having earlier watched Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne on The Politics Show I think one would be forgiven for thinking that they were from rival parties rather than taking part in a leadership contest.

First Huhne was forced into denying charges (later proven) of describing his opponent as a "calamity" only to later accuse rival Nick Clegg of "flip-flopping."

And there was me thinking that geeks always wore sandals.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

Poor interviewing technique yet again.

The 'Calamity Clegg' document was a gift to a skilful interviewer. Huhne was on the back foot and someone like Robin Day would have crucified him. But Jon Sopel allowed him to use the document as a launch pad for a machine gun argument to which Clegg could not possibly respond in the time available.

But what the hell! The Lib Dems remain 1,000,000 light years away from power and influence in this country. If we want a repository for the protest vote what's wrong with the Monster Raving Loony Party?

Newmania said...

I agree with you Iain that Clegg has not done himself any favours although I have a different diagnosis.

Clegg is trying to explain to the Liberal party it has to change while Huhne is telling it it can stay the same . Of course he looks better to the party and Clegg will look weak because he has to coat his message in very careful terms and stray into vacillation.

I have always found the Liberals the least "Nice" party locally and I think this is a common experience.I do like some of the ideas they have though and the lack of a clear philosophy is not something I find unforgiveable

Little Black Sambo said...

Who basically cares?

Votedave said...

Voting Conservative is the only realistic way we're going to get any change in government. The more voters realise this, the less well the LibDems will do.
The Liberal vote has always fallen when Labour loses power.

Anonymous said...

As Henry Kissinger said of Academic Politics maybe Liberal Politics "are so vicious because the stakes are so small"!

Torygirl said...

My husband thinks there should be a Hindenberg Huhne dossier, as he says his leadership bid is now going down in flames. Totally inappropriate I know but I think he's just jealous of my crush!