Thursday, January 26, 2006

Three points for Chris 

Time I made clear my support for Chris Huhne as leader, if only so that any readers can judge my bias.

Each candidate has a strong case. Ming and Simon each have particular strengths that Chris must work hard to match, and there are very good reasons for voting for one or other of them.

Chris also has particular strengths and for me these tip the balance in my decision. Here are three for getting on with.

Firstly, his grasp of the economic issues, and the technical arguments involved in economics. This will be especially important if Brown becomes Prime Minister, as Brown will not be able to bully Chris with technical arguments. I believe both Ming and Simon can present a good brief in economics debates, but facing an ex-Chancellor PM we may need a bit more than brief-presentation ability right at the sharp end. And establishing a good record on economic matters is vital for our party.

An additional point is that Chris cannot be overawed behind the scenes by the other heavyweight economic experts on our own benches. That should stabilise our own internal debates right across the party, and help focus our treasury team.

On a related side-issue, handling economic affairs may yet be the big problem for the Tories if Cameron continues his attempts at unorthodoxy and gives his putative base supporters the willies. And Brown will, I am sure, try to bully Cameron on these issues.

Second, I think Chris has a sense of the European dimensions to British politics – not the bastardised Euro-politics of perpetual renegotiations of sub-clauses to treaties, but the real world of decisions made across our continent that impact our lives in our own communities. I see Chris as the first really modern politician in a British leadership role, comfortable and experienced and unapologetic in being both British and European, and capable of integrated campaigning on issues from street level to global level. Unsurprised, for example, by the niceties of devolved responsibilities within nation states.

Thirdly, Chris has clearly given serious thought to the Radical Liberal traditions we are re-discovering and rescuing today. My own very small experience of debating with Chris is that he listens and understands and if you make a good case will take it on board. I have a sense that we will be able to raise the game in our policy development work so that we not only produce good words in reports, but programs of action to make those a reality.

Three reasons for starters, for voting for Chris Huhne despite the great strengths and abilities of each of his opponents.

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