Lembit for London

There is a LibDem establishment campaign to prevent Lembit Öpik becoming their candidate for London Mayor. This is a mistake. The LibDems are likely to be annihilated in the Mayoral race if they put forward a nonentity candidate.

With Lembit they will get media coverage in what will be a battle of strong personalities, without him they will be ignored. Like Boris and Ken, Lembit has single-name recognition, he is media friendly and will hold his own in hustings. If the LibDems choose anyone else they will be shooting themselves in the foot.

LibDem Youth Teeny Totty Tantrums

libdem-girlsIt seems Nick Clegg is having trouble with the kids, after personally launching the rebranded Liberal Youth movement last year, the kids are now biting the hand that feeds them. Their election for a new chairman has descended into the kind of fight that only student politics can. The incumbent chair, Elaine Bagshaw, is a Labour defector (pictured here raving) who has been compared to Vicky Pollard by Quentin Letts. Opponents say she is playing dirty to secure a second term.

Her libertarian leaning opponent Sara Scarlett (pictured smiling), has resigned from the kids club executive after rounds of furious bitching* chronicled by the Tory Bear blog.  Mind you she managed to slag of the sheer “corporate incompetence” of Cowley Street before she went.  In an illiberal move worthy of Trotskyite splinter group, Bagshaw is now trying to get her opponent kicked out of the party to clear the way for her re-election.

Both candidates for the top job have  called for Liberal Youth the organisation to be scrapped – does that show leadership potential?

*There was a  Downfall spoof video, a must have for any political bitchfight these days, sadly that disappeared after talk of legal action.

LibDem’s Choose Dullest Candidate to be Party President Lembit Goes Nuclear

Guido despairs of the sandalistas sometimes. Why choose someone so dull and weak? Ros Scott burst into tears at one hustings because the questioning was mildly tough. They had a choice between someone who has a high media profile, someone energetic and someone who is nice but completely in the LibDem comfort zone. They opted for the latter when the problem is the LibDems are in serious trouble electorally. They have just lost their deposit in a by-election. Membership is at the lowest it has been in living memory, down to just a mere 60,357.

Presidential Election Votes Cast
Ros Scott: 20,736 votes (72%)
Lembit Öpik: 6247 votes (22%)
Chandila Fernando: 1799 votes (6%)

Lembit now says is going to campaign for some of his hobby horses – one of which is a “reassessment of our [LibDem] attitude towards nuclear power”. Presumably he wants to move the LibDems towards supporting nuclear power.

The Other Presidential Campaign

Believe it or not there is another Presidential election campaign running. The three candidates for President of the Liberal Democrats are Baroness Ros Scott, Lembit Öpik and Chandila Fernando. The ballot papers have been sent out and the race closes November 7.

Ros is the establishment candidate and is favourite to win. She is seen as a safe pair of hands.

Lembit is having another go after losing out to Simon Hughes last time. He has hardly any support from his parliamentary colleagues who see him as anything but a safe pair of hands. His campaign manager is hoping that his celebrity status will give him high name recognition with the membership that will translate into votes.

Guido wonders if the brief friendship between Ros’ daughter and Lembit gives an added twist to the competitive edge between them.

Chandila Fernando is the young outside candidate running an energetic campaign. He comes from the Orange Book faction and is very much the insurgency candidate. Expenditure limits are £7,500 per candidate, Chandila – as massively the lowest profile candidate – wanted to blow £5,000 of his budget on adverts in the party’s LibDem News internal newspaper, but bizarrely this was blocked by the party.

If only they were so choosy about taking that £2 million from Michael Brown into the party coffers…

Clegg : the FCS Days, Denials and Delays

Calamity Clegg is denying this story that he was a member of the Cambridge University Conservative Association, unfortunately nobody believes him. Greg Hands MP says “There was only one Nick Clegg at Robinson College, and Nick Clegg was a member of CUCA.” He should know, he was counting on Clegg’s votes in the internal CUCA elections.

The Huhnie monsters accused Clegg of having a Tory past during the leadership election, something he denied at the time, as he does now.

Changing the subject, his press team told Guido a few weeks ago they would be publishing his expenses about now. Now Hannah in his office says they didn’t tell Guido that, and they will be publishing his expenses in “a few weeks”. Just as well, because Clegg himself warned us nearly a month ago that “Any delay will only add to the British public’s distrust in their politicians.”

+++ MING IS ALIVE +++

Seen at the LibDem leadership announcement. Not looking too spritely or cheerful…

UPDATE : Clegg won (no surprise) and gave a speech worthy of, errm, Al Gore. There were only 500 votes in it out of some 40,000 cast.

The LibDem leadership race is dragging on for another fortnight. Guido put a large bet on Clegg immediately after Ming’s election, assuming that Clegg was the heir, because he seemed appealingly telegenic and modernising.

Throughout this leadership contest Guido has however reduced his exposure to Clegg. It has to be said that Huhne, who has a limited likeability factor as a human, is a better campaigner. He has positioned himself on the clitoris of the activist base, painted Clegg as inept, lightweight and Cameron-in-yellow. He has also smartly jumped on Donorgate to put himself in the news. All in all, he has shown the ruthless determination of a politician who wants to win.

If he wins it will put the LibDems in the position the Tories were in under IDS. Universally derided as he was by the end of his leadership, people forget that IDS had activist adoration for his traditional Conservative views and hard line on Europe. The parliamentary Tory party was dismayed that they were saddled with IDS. Huhne has tacked left to appeal to the LibDem activists, who are far to the left of their parliamentarians and the party establishment machine.

Guido thinks it would be strategically better for the Tories to have Clegg as a leader, despite the fears that he will compete for Cameron’s votes. The most likely outcome of a general election is still a hung parliament. Clegg will be more amenable to a deal with the Tories. Guido is also beginning to wonder if Clegg might actually be a weaker campaigner than Huhne.

Vince Cable : “From Stalin to Mr Bean”

It has come to something when even the LibDems are taking the piss out of Gordon’s competence at PMQs. Vince has been very impressive on Northern Rock, military funding, the economy and slapping down Gordon. Some may wonder if the the LibDems have the best choice before them…

At last a little bit of excitement has developed in the LibDem leadership contest. The Huhnie monsters released a campaign briefing entitled “Calamity Clegg”. Guido (of course) has a copy of the now withdrawn document for you to download here.

It sparked a thoroughly enjoyable bit of a clash on the Beeb and a complaint from Clegg to the returning officer that “the older boy is picking on me.” Having read the document it actually makes Guido more inclined towards Clegg and his public sector choice agenda.

UPDATE : Huhne’s lot are now saying Sorry and asking the returning officer for permission to publish the document. Eh?

Chris Huhne’s campaign website had an article by the ex-Somerset Council leader, Sir Chris Clarke, backing Huhne and attacking Clegg as a crypto-Tory. It has now been edited out, but what is the betting that a quick-witted Labour staffer will have a copy to re-use at a later stage?

Talking of betting, Guido is undecided, Betfair has Clegg as a massive favourite, Guido just to be contrarian has a few quid on Huhne at 3.8 as a value bet. Huhne could be the LibDem’s IDS, popular with grassroots activists, despised by the media and the parliamentary party. Nothing would surprise Guido from the LibDems.

UPDATE : In the comments a co-conspirator quotes the deleted text thus “One candidate seems to want the Liberal Democrats to be another Tory party when most people in Britain don’t want the one there is already.”

Hat-tip : Quaequam

Perhaps irritated by Simon Hughes coming out for Clegg we learn that Huhne has been characteristically bitchy about his rival in a GMTV interview. He doesn’t quite say “Clegg is crap” but you know what he means.

Huhne says Clegg is similar to Cameron in age and looks before laying into David Cameron in a way that sounds like a proxy attack on Nick Clegg. Huhne also gets very niggledy about criticisms by Clegg of the lack of impact that the LibDems are making on the environment compared to the Tories (or rather the LibDem environment spokesman is making compared to the husky-hugging glacier-riding Tories).

“I want to fight a positive campaign, so I just simply say that I think Nick has great strengths. … The record is that last summer, for example, the Tory blogs were criticising my Tory opponent because he wasn’t getting as much coverage on the floods and foot and mouth as I was, and in fact some of them were calling for his resignation. If you look over the last year, I’ve consistently been ahead in terms of media coverage of my Tory opposite number, and that’s one of the reasons why I think that we’ve done so well in terms of public perception on the environment.”

He then implicitly has a go Clegg

Well, one of the things that I know as an economist and as a journalist is that both politicians and journalists tend to be very bad at numbers, and numbers are often the evidence so you need to look at things like poll numbers before you shoot from the hip, and that does worry me slightly, but I think that you need to actually go back and look at what the real situation is we’ve done very well on the environment over the last couple of years and I think that if you compare that with any other area you’ll see that it’s the only major area where not only are we in the lead over other parties, but it’s also the only area where we’ve built up our lead over the other parties.

He obviously is pointing to the LibDem numbers which show them polling badly on Home Affairs issues compared to the authoritarian-populist Labour party and the Law and Order loving Tories. Clegg is the Home Affairs spokesman…

Clegg – ID Cards – “I Will Defy Law”

LibDem politics is so very often the politics of gestures. Huhne’s position on Trident isn’t of any consequence since he won’t have a dog in that fight.

But the politics of the personal is a place where their gestures are more significant. Clegg is going all Gandhi-like and promising mass civil disobedience on ID cards. He told supporters last night “If the legislation is passed I will lead a grassroots campaign of civil disobedience to thwart the identity cards programme … I, and I expect thousands of people like me, will simply refuse ever to register.” “I am not a number” he (almost) shouts.

Which is all very well for private citizens like Guido to do, it is another thing for legislators. Guido’s defiance of the state is one thing, a law-maker becoming a law-breaker presents a dilemma of an entirely different order. Unlike private citizens, Clegg is an integral part of the system representative democracy, if he rejects the outcome of majoritarian politics he is rejecting the system. Good luck to him, but he can’t simply pick and choose the laws he obeys if he is a law-maker.

Bit bored today. Chris Clegg and Nick Huhne are too difficult to distinguish.

Guido got a press release from John Lewis telling him that they supply the Huhnie monster with his suits. Says it all really.

08:30 UPDATE : Clegg is launching his “glitz-free” campaign in Sheffield today.

His website www.nickclegg.com will go live immediately afterwards. His pitch is going to be that he can reach out beyond the LibDem comfort zone. Translated : “I’ll take votes back from Cameron”.

TEXT UPDATED 10:30 : With many potential candidates ruling themselves out yesterday the three clear front runners are Huhne (13/5), who has declared, Clegg, the odds on favourite (1/2) who will launch his campaign tomorrow. Steve Webb has withdrawn this morning and endorsed Clegg. John Hemming’s odds have dramatically come in (from 150/1 to 65/1) and he is drumming up nominations for his tilt. He is talking about Kant in his campaign.
There is apparently a “keep it clean” agreement between Clegg and Huhne. Just as there was an Orange Book cadre understanding to install Ming as a caretaker leader – before Huhne ran last time. At yesterday’s campaign launch Huhne did one of his characteristic sly jibes (remember that pious knife twisting he did to Hughes when he was outed). “Ming”, Huhne claimed, was the “victim of a Camelot obsession”. Who is the JFK of this race that he is blaming for Ming’s fall? Guido will give you a clue, it isn’t John Hemming.

08:00 UPDATE : Ashdown is the first LibDem grandee to come out and endorse Clegg.

11:25 UPDATE : Hemming has reconfirmed he is still in the race and his hat remains firmly in the ring.

+++ STEVE WEBB WITHDRAWS AND ENDORSES CLEGG +++_

Unconfirmed.

UPDATE : Oops, the Beeb had it 20 minutes before Guido. See that £3.5 billion doesn’t all go to waste.

Huhne Site is Up

Well that didn’t take long did it? It is almost as if they were ready before Ming went…

Chris Huhne banner

Presumably he wants “people in charge” as opposed to Alien Lizards? What does he mean?

Not much to report this morning, Ming has hinted that the Huhnie monsters could have been behind his demise. Huhne himself is expected to launch his campaign today. The Cleggies are texting all and sundry – Shane Greer has a screenshot of the hastily hidden, soon-to-be launched Clegg campaign site.

Some are speculating that the 29 year-old Julia Goldsworthy might run as a marker for the future. So after arguing for 18 months that age (he was 66) and experience (of sprinting) trumped looks and charisma, they could switch to a photogenic reality TV show contestant as leader – Julia is 40/1 on Betfair. Excellent idea, it couldn’t be any worse…

UPDATE : A co-conspirator says she has told her local rag she definitely won’t be running. Boo.

UPDATE II : John Hemming, who has confirmed he wants to run, is a mere 180 /1 on Betfair. He tells Guido he expects to get 5 nominations already!

UPDATE III : Vince Cable has ruled himself out this morning. Telling Nick Robinson that given “the current irrational prejudice about age… an older candidate is not electable”. Rationally, the 64 year-old slaphead is almost indistinguishable from Ming to voters.

UPDATE IV : Steve Webb says he has enough nominations, but is coming over all coy and pretending he is not sure if he really wants to run.

Betfair have opened up a market on the LibDem Leadership –

Clegg is hot favourite at less than evens.
Huhne is 13/5
Steve Webb is 15/1
Ed Davey is 36/1
Charles Kennedy is 40/1
Julia Goldsworthy is 40/1
Vince Cable is 50/1

Cable’s price seems to have some value here as an outsider. Guido has put a fiver on him as a trading bet.

Incidentally, Guido covered all his “Tories to be the biggest party” bets at a profit last night. If Clegg wins he may enjoy a honeymoon at Cameron’s expense…

EXCLUSIVE : The indefatigable John Hemming has sent round an email to LibDem MPs throwing his hat in the ring! Yes!

He has sent out a position statement which is basically steady as she goes, neither right nor left etc., concluding with –

I am one of the few Members of Parliament who have the practical experience of having successfully led a political group from opposition to a position of power (in Birmingham).

[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Alan Sugar on Jeremy Corbyn:

“It’s clear you alluded to students refunds to get votes from young impressionable people. You are a cheat and should resign.”

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