Wednesday, February 08, 2006

On defence and so on 

Over on quaequem blog James posts without comment the responses by the Candidates to the questions set by the LD Peace and Security Group on Trident replacement, on the place of Conference in setting policy, and on the Meacher EDM on having a full public debate before any Trident decisions are taken by the government. I do have a few comments.

Ming’s contribution is long, balanced, has good stuff in it, and is in short quite an acceptable essay. But you do have to quarry it for the key points. This does reinforce my own feeling that Ming’s statesmanlike interventions are not always as effective as they might be. As we keep telling our FOCUS editors, we need to make our material punchy and target the things we want listeners and readers to remember.

Simon covers these points much more succinctly and directly, as you would expect from a past master of FOCUS campaigning. He leaves an impression of the problems we face without however adding much of substance to the arguments put forwards by Ming. He rather treats the third question as an afterthought.

Chris is sharp, focussed, and prepared to deal with what needs to be done now. Things are happening in the background to pre-empt any future decisions and we need to be up front preventing that pre-emption. Chris tells us some of those background developments and gives us, the ordinary party members, who will ultimately have a say on policy through Conference, the information we need to deal with this matter ourselves. And to understand what the parliamentary leadership may need to do NOW, literally this week, before formal party votes are taken. I have a sense of a party leader taking the membership into his confidence and calling on us for committed and responsible and informed action.

My bias (see my bloggers for Chris affiliation) is very clear of course. But I do ask you to do this short test. Read through the statements published over on quaequam and imagine yourself a member of the public with no LibDem commitments. Which of these statements is that uncommitted person most likely to remember and respond to?

Just a second thought. These questions are of course cautious explorations of some of the themes of the Great Defence Policy Implosion that put huge cracks into the SDP-Liberal Alliance. I do have just a slight feeling that both Ming and Simon feel the aches of old wounds from old battles on this, which constrains their statements today. While Chris, not having been a central figure in that uproar, has absorbed the lessons and moved on to fight with confidence on today’s ground.

As a Quaker I may well find there are defence and security issues on which I find myself on contrasting ground to the Party consensus, whoever is leader. As it stands I would be happiest dealing with these issues under a leadership showing the clarity and responsiveness of Chris Huhne.

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