Saturday, December 01, 2007

House Points: The alternative Lib Dem short-list

My House Points column from this week's Liberal Democrat News.

Alumni alternatives

The air over Westminster is black with chickens coming home to roost. According to the Civil Aviation Authority they are stacked six deep as far away as Kettering. The Labour Party made such play of ‘sleaze’ in the 1990s that it was bound to come back to bite them in the bum one day. Now it has.

If you can hear an unfamiliar sound, it is probably John Major laughing his socks off.

As events are moving so quickly this week, let’s cross the road from the Palace of Westminster and visit Westminster School. The old pile is particularly relevant to Lib Dems at the moment because our leadership election is being conducted by two of its former pupils.

I suspect this tells us something unpalatable about the composition of our party and also about the success of state education in fostering social mobility. But those debates are for another day.

So if we have to be led by someone from Westminster School, let’s look at some other former pupils and see who else we could have.

Ruth Kelly and Tony Benn are obviously out, and Nigella Lawson’s family connections make her an unlikely leader too. But, as Asquith’s great granddaughter, Helena Bonham Carter has an impeccable Liberal pedigree.

Shane McGowan - lead singer of The Pogues and one of the less obvious former public school boys - would appeal to a certain sort of voter. But perhaps we would do better with the smoother approach of Flanders and Swann?

Lovers of the arts might want us to go for Martin Amis, John Gielgud or the great 17th-century composer Henry Purcell. And everybody has a soft spot for A. A. Milne. He would certainly be a safer bet than Kim Philby.

If we want to play safe and choose an established Liberal politician then we can choose between Lord John Russell, who was twice prime minister in the mid-nineteenth century, and Sir Charles Dilke. Dilke was the great hope of the radicals towards the end of that century, but his career foundered after a scandalous divorce case.

So, as a short-list, how about Helena Bonham Carter, A. A. Milne and Lord John Russell? I know which way I would vote.

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