Thursday, February 16, 2006

Why I voted for Chris Huhne

Leaving aside personalities and negative points about the other two candidates (as you never should in politics) my chief reason for voting for Chris Huhne was as follows.

The great virtue of Charles Kennedy's leadership was that he was not attracted to alliances, pacts or mergers. He managed to untangle us from the joint Cabinet committee - the last vestige of Paddy Ashdown's Project - without adverse consequences. Under him the Liberal Democrats fought as an independent force.

But his great weakness was a lack of interest in the details of policy. The result was that our shadow ministers went off in their separate directions, following their own instincts or listening to interest groups as the fancy took them.

So it is today that we have a notably dry economic outlook, oppose intervention in Iraq but are quite keen on it elsewhere, oppose choice in the health service, apparently oppose any parental choice between schools and wish to see more state intervention in the family than even New Labour has countenanced. And the list goes on and on.

Some of these policies are right, some are even popular. What is less clear is how they hang together as a programme for government or as a "narrative", to use the vogue word.

Whoever the new leader is, he will have to start forging connections between these disparate elements and encouraging the party to look at some of them again. Of course, whoever that leader is, he may forge connections I do not like or take aim at the wrong sacred cows, but the job has to be done.

My positive reason for voting for Chris Huhne is that, of the three candidates, he is the most likely to have the vision and the intellect to do it. Whatever you think of his support for environmental taxation, this coupling together of environmental and economic policy is just the sort of idea we should be looking at to give our policy platform coherence.

The belief that a party leader should foist his own views on the party is a modern heresy. Liberal Democrat policy must be made by the party as a whole. But after years of laid-back leadership under Charles Kennedy we need someone who can guide policy development and lead us towards the right answers.

I believe Chris Huhne is that man.


Liberal Neil said...

I know you are using shorthand but I think it is unfair to describe our policies as being 'against choice' in health and education.

We may be against the Government's reforms but that is not the same thing.

What sort of choice is important to, for example, parents of a 14 year old? Is there prioritiy to have a choice of different schools from different providers, or is it to have a broad curriculum choice at their own school. In my view, for most parents, it is the latter.

Similarly with health. Is an expectant mum bothered about wether the NHS provides services via a 'marketplace' of private providers and a choice of which of five hospitals she can have her baby at, or is she actually more concerned that she has one well trained midwife throughout and the choice of a local maternity unit or home birth?

Again I think the latter. And Labour's policies are steadily removing those choices. We are right to oppose them.

Anonymous said...

"Whoever the new leader is, he will have to start forging connections between these disparate elements of encouraging the party to look at some of them again."

As Stephen Tall put it, "Each of the candidates has made clear their view that the Lib Dem mistake in the last election was to fight with a shopping list of policies, but not to give the electorate a real sense of our values."