The vultures are already circling round Tim Farron
, despite him having got us a 50% increase in seat numbers, and come within 500 votes of doubling our seats
. I've also privately had "Tim must go" messages, or variations thereof, from five separate people; and I'm known as a Tim supporter. Christ alone knows what it's like in Lambite circles. I personally think we need a leadership election like we need a hole in the head, but the party constitution says that there must be a leadership election within a year of a general election (see article 17.2 (g) - sorry it's a .pdf)
. My suspicion is that Federal Board will look at the instability of the current parliament and conclude that we're better to have a new leader in place before the inevitable autumn general election, so they can bed in before it's called. Add to that the large number of Norman Lamb's supporters who never accepted the result of the last leadership election, and have been constantly hampering the party by briefing against Tim since the day of his victory, and a leadership election very soon is almost an inevitability.
If we're going to have a leadership election (which I am pretty resigned to, despite not wanting one)
we need to be very
careful about how we go about it. A swiftly called, badly run leadership election, fuelled by existing bad blood, will do nothing to enthuse all our lovely new members, and will almost certainly put off some older members too.
have a Rubber Stamp Tim election - Tim and RON being the only candidates. I don't think that would wash with the Lambites, or various other people who are anti-Tim for other reasons. And besides, it's possible RON might win and we'd have to have another election, which would be a waste of money the party doesn't have.
We could have a rerun of the last one, but I think that would be utterly disastrous
for the party. It would turn very nasty, very quickly. While I stand by everything I said about Tim
in the election campaign, some of the
BUT TIM HATES THE GAYS ("But her emails!")
mud has stuck, and that makes him incapable of taking the fight to the DUP as vociferously and as hard as we need him to. People just do not believe that his values fit with the party, however much you demonstrate to them that they do through his voting record
. It's shit, but it's happened, and we have to do something to deal with that. Now, Tim might be able to burst that bubble himself, but he's shown no signs of doing so so far, and the longer it goes on the harder it will be to shift. It may already be impossible. I love Tim to bits, and happily voted for him in the last leadership election, and it has been so
relaxing having a leader I agree with on almost everything, and don't have to blog about how rubbish he is twice a week every week... but even I am forced to admit that this One Big Flaw might be fatal, especially given the current proposed government.
Norman Lamb, however, would still be much, much
worse. I have many issues with him, but my three main ones are:
- He scuppered our entire anti-brexit USP by insisting on the stupid second referendum positioning in the manifesto, entirely because his seat is leave-voting. We should have said that we would halt brexit if we formed a government. Being unambiguously pro-remain, in a way that could be boiled down to two words, would have been a position we could have campaigned on. A second referendum with remain as an option is bloody stupid, needlessly complicated, and not an option anybody was going to vote enthusiastically for:
Well first we'd negotiate a brexit deal, then we'd set up a referendum, and then we'd campaign against the deal we ourselves negotiated? It's madness. The electorate is pig sick of elections and referenda right now, too. Brenda speaks for many. The kind of selfishness demonstrated by inserting all that into the manifesto to save your own neck, especially when it played a part in preventing us from winning so many other seats, is not acceptable in a leader.
- His policy pronouncements on autism have been entirely along the Autism Speaks/Autism Parents line (for why this is bad, click here. For a dissection of Norman Lamb's views specifically, click here). The fact that Norman is almost universally lauded as being excellent on mental health makes this so much more hurtful, like when people who claim to be LGBT allies say "we achieved equal marriage". Plus, when challenged on it by actually autistic people, he reacted extremely badly: first doubling down, and then saying "oh, come meet me in parliament and we can talk about this" when the volume increased while still promoting the offending article. Both the policy and his reaction to complaints about it make me doubt him as a leader. Whatever Tim's faults, he listens, and if he's wrong, he learns. Lamb shows no sign of being capable of that.
- He's a rubbish media performer, and we desperately need a good one. He comes across as cold, aloof, and boring. Tim's Chirpy Northern Chappy schtick is not for everyone, but at least he's passionate when he speaks, and for all my kvetching about Clegg, he was great on the media. Now, this could potentially be trained out of him. But probably not before the next election if it happens as quickly as looks likely.
So, despite Tim's One Big Flaw, in a rerun of the last leadership election I would be forced to vote for him, because Lamb would be so much worse. And I wouldn't be happy. And the party wouldn't be happy. And there would be even more bad blood than there is already. And I accept that I am almost certainly adding to that bad blood with this post, but I'm doing it more in sorrow than in anger; it's stuff that needs to be said.So
: given that we need to prevent a rerun of the last leadership election for all the reasons above, and we can't have a Rubber Stamp Tim election, we need to find another candidate(s). To stand as a candidate for leadership of the lib dems, you have to be an MP. This gives us a potential field of twelve, given the election results (and I will forever mourn that the voters of Cambridge and Wells didn't return Julian Huppert and Tessa Munt to the parliamentary party - Tessa for leader, in particular, I would have wholeheartedly and enthusiatically supported)
The media always touts Vince, but Vince has said many times he doesn't want to do it, plus, while he is undoubtedly excellent on the economy and related matters, he is somewhat shaky on other areas that are important to me, most notably immigration.
Tom Brake is utterly lovely, but anonymous outside London. Stephen Lloyd is even more anonymous than Tom. Ed Davey is too divisive, to put it politely. Alistair Carmichael is too tainted
. Wera Hobhouse, Christine Jardine, Jamie Stone and Layla Moran have not been in parliament for long enough - although Layla especially will hopefully be excellent for the future.
So that leaves us with a field of one.
Jo Swinson is an excellent media performer, is sound on policy, and is good at listening to the party. When the leadership election happens, I hope she stands. I really, really hope she stands. For the sake of the party, and all of us in it.ETA
It's been mentioned to me by a couple of people that there is no requirement for a RON in a single candidate election, and that we've had RONless uncontested leadership elections before (before my time, though)
, so that is less impossible than I've painted it. I still think a contested election is inevitable, though. There's too many anti-Tim people in the party. Sadly.