The new divide in British politics is between "civil liberties" and "authoritarianism", Chris Huhne, a Liberal Democrat leadership contender, said last night. Mr Huhne attacked Tony Blair for being "illiberal", and the Tories for being unreliable defenders of liberty.I know, it's not just me saying these things, but it's definately the sort of thing I want to hear from a candidate and potential Prime Minister.
For the record, I issued the challenge and never updated; I didn't join the LibDems within the deadline, but I strongly suspect I will before too long. The reason I didn't was purely personal and financial. It may only be 6 quid, but when you're at the edge of the overdraft and the credit card is maxed out, 6 quid is a lot.
However, I do know who I want to see as Lib Dem leader, and more specifically, who I don't. Huhne, despite his public school/journalism background, wins. Hands down. He's a great writer, and more importantly, he takes the importance of policy and ideas seriously. I hope he does well, and I'd love to see him win. More. I'd love to see him in Number 10. He's genuine, he believes in freedoms and liberties.
Failing that, I suspect Ming Campbell will take the spot. At first, I was opposed, too old, too Scottish, too patrician. He's turned me around on that one, he can speak well, he can put the case, and I think he genuinely believes in what he says. He may be another two Jags, but they're a hobby, he's not likely to use one to drive a few hundred metres down the promenade bacause his wife's new hairdo may get blown about a bit.
Simon? The furore over his 'outing' didn't change my views. The way he handled it (badly) didn't change my views. I like the guy. He's honest (he Did Not Lie, if you believe he did, look up the meaning of bisexual and compare it to homosexual/gay), but, essentially, he's an activists candidate, a doorstepper. All parties need them, and he's one of the best. But as leader? No. Nice bloke, but not Prime Minister material. If the Lid Dems are serious, they need someone you can see on the steps of Number 10.
That's not Simon Hughes.
So, I hope Huhne wins. If not, Campbell is pretty much a shoe in from what I can see. If Hughes wins, the party will continue, and continue to pick up Labour defectors, etc. But he's not the leader to make the breakthrough the LibDems need. And, as the only solidly liberal/libertarian party, the country needs the Lib Dems to be strong, Huhne's right:
He also attacked the Conservatives as "fair-weather friends" of British liberty and said as party leader he would step up the campaign to defend liberty. "If we, as Liberal Democrats, did not speak up for civil liberties," he asked, "who would?"