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.


Nick said...

I'd have thought Malcolm Bruce would have been the Steel of 1999, with Hughes the Pardoe. Kennedy probably triumphed by being able to split the difference between the two extremes.

iain said...

I have an impeccable record. I voted for Pardoe in the first leadership election and in every election I have voted for the looser. I am determined to maintain my record and in autumn 2015 I shall vote for Danny Alexander.

crewegwyn said...

I too had an unimpeachable record of voting for a loser in every contest until the most recent one.

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

This is a great way to choose a leader. John is my dad's cousin and I grew up admiring john and went into politics because of him
Let's choose a pardoe this time

Guy Earll said...

Thorpe was the last leader elected only by the MPs so that was not a relevant query lol!

Guy Earl said...

I have a prep school memory (Bude, North Cornwall constituency) of a cavalcade of Liberal black cars (Ford Populars maybe?) passing through the town during the 1966 General Election, when John Pardoe was first elected. Whether it was during the campaign or celebratory, after the result, I cannot recall!