Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Are all Liberal leadership contests Steel vs Pardoe?
I was not a member of the Liberal Party in 1976 because there was no branch in Market Harborough to recruit me.
But I knew I was a Liberal and that my favourite MPs were David Penhaligon and John Pardoe. So when Pardoe stood against David Steel for the leadership of the party I knew whose side I was on.
And you could argue that the 1976 contest set a pattern for later Liberal and Liberal Democrat leadership elections.
One candidate (Steel) was orthodox, sensible and just a little dull. The other (Pardoe) was more charismatic, more open to new ideas and just a little unreliable in his judgement.
So in later contests Paddy Ashdown was a Pardoe and Alan Beith was a Steel. And Chris Huhne was a Pardoe and Ming Campbell and then Nick Clegg were Steels. In all these cases I voted for the Pardoe.
It doesn't always work: in 1999 there were five candidates. I suppose you could make a case for Charles Kennedy being a sort of Social Democrat Steel, but a clear Pardoe failed to emerge.
Can we project this pattern back into past? I don't know, but it tempting to see Asquith as a Steel and Lloyd George as a Pardoe.
And was Jo Grimond a Steel or a Pardoe? He seems to have combined the better qualities of both.