Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Some good process thoughts 

How to assess candidates for the leadership? This for starters is what will impress me.

Above all put our own LibDem case on our own merits, not trying to be the Liberal Democrat version of this or that.

As far as possible, no casual personal slagging-off on another candidate. We know each candidate has strengths and weaknesses. Let us note those as they emerge. I want each candidate to emphasise what they themselves positively bring to a leadership role. That will be contrast enough to the others without sour sniping.

I do want to see awareness of the major challenges ahead for Britain and a sense of how we can organise to tackle those, and why Liberal principles will be important in that work. I will be looking for signs of the way each candidate thinks, how they organise their researches and exploration if you like, rather than settled or packaged answers. So I am not necessarily looking for huge new policy initiatives to differentiate each candidate. We can do without candidates daily dragging Cameron-style anorexic rabbits from a hat. (I didn’t say we couldn’t slag off our opponents sometimes!).

In fact I will be quite happy if on many issues each candidate maintains the same overall policy stance, and competes on the ability to present, integrate and enthuse. How good are they at selling the party’s position? That is a key issue.

Of course we are going to find policy differences. Important as this is (and I admit my vote may yet swing on a few key gut issues) I hope we don’t get too fixated on these. Candidates who show an ability to listen to different views from their opponents and deal with them constructively will impress me. It is a skill we will need to help build a dynamic and unified party strategy for the next 5 and 10 years. An important skill for the leader of a non-dictatorial party.

Real life goes on while we do our internal campaigning. The so-called respect agenda from Labour for example, and the latest troubles out of Iraq. I hope our candidates can compete by making our case in Parliament and elsewhere, and supporting each other as they do so. In some cases maybe joint statements to emphasise the point. The ability to do that task will impress me heavily.

And if possible give some sense of the excitement and fun of politics.

Oh and show that they (or at least their staff!) know about, read and appreciate the LibDem supporters debates online…

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