is intended by the clever children in his office to make it clear whether he has a chance of appealing to voters at the next general electionBut there is no vacancy for leader of the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg is determined to lead the party into the next election and will do so unless it becomes clear that the voters will not stand for the idea.
So I think Liberal Democrat Voice was wrong to allow itself to be wound up by Tim Montgomerie to the extent that it blogged this earlier today:
Vince Cable is an excellent Business Secretary and would make an excellent Chancellor. But he simply isn’t leadership material. “Twinkle toes” is deluding himself. He doesn’t have the charisma. Having interviewed both Clegg and Cable with other bloggers, Vince Cable is a sort of straight-laced (sic) university lecturer type. He doesn’t set the room alight, like Nick Clegg does.Nick Clegg does not quite set the room alight for me, but that is not the most important point here.
What Lib Dem Voice is appealing to here is the idea that a leader has to be young, dynamic and, above all, charismatic.
The best leaders do have charisma as well as solidity, as Jo Grimond and Paddy Ashdown have shown Liberals in my lifetime. Conservatives would say this of Margaret Thatcher: I am genuinely unsure whom Labour activists would point to - many of them seem to dislike Tony Blair as much as I do.
But the danger is that charisma - or the belief among the leader's acolytes that their man has charisma - becomes the most important or the only factor. And maybe that has already happened.
It does not take too jaundiced a view of British politics to see Nick Clegg trying to be like David Cameron, and David Cameron trying to be like Tony Blair, and all of them trying ultimately to be like John F, Kennedy, whose victory gave birth to this silly view of political leadership.
As I said, there is unlikely to be a vacancy for leadership of the Liberal Democrats. But if there were to be, I can see Vince Cable doing a very good job.
I, for one, would welcome having a grown up in charge.