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."
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