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Why I'm currently 'on the fence'

June 9, 2015 3:41 PM
By John Marriott - Lincoln, Sleaford and North Hykeham
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

John MarriottI see that some in the party are getting excited about who is to be our new Leader and are rushing to print in support of their preferred candidate. Quite frankly, I am struggling to raise a sweat as neither of the candidates ticks all the right boxes for me at the moment.

I have met neither of them, which will be the first time that I have not spoken personally to one of our 'Leaders' since the days of Jeremy Thorpe, although, in the case of Charles Kennedy, from what I recall, he was more interested in looking for a light for his cigarette during a break at a Regional Conference in the early 1990s than actually listening to what I had to say - sensible man!

So, I can only base my judgement on what I have seen of the two contenders (or should it really be contestants?) in both the printed and electronic media. Given the increasingly presidential style of our politics in this country, the role of Leader takes on an importance it probably doesn't deserve, given the hard work required of others in the background, such as activists and councillors, who not only make policy but try their damnedest to make it work by getting people elected at national and local level.

I have seen both gentlemen performing recently. Norman Lamb, on Question Time, made some excellent points and was combative and quite amusing. He also speaks from experience, having the campaign medals and the scars from his time as a minister in the coalition government to prove that he is prepared to make difficult decisions, whether the purists amongst us agree with him or not.

Tim Farron, appearing on a sunlit morning over the line from his beloved Westmoreland, had a rather uncomfortable time at the hands of Andrew Neill on the Sunday Politics - he wouldn't be the first and he won't be the last! 'Teflon' Tim has been very clever over the past few years at avoiding some of the problems faced by his cabinet colleagues, which working on a day to day basis with the Tories involved. 'Misremembering' facts about the likes of Peter Tatchell when questioned on his voting record on Gay Rights issues doesn't endear him to people like me, although I did admire his recent statements about our eastern European allies on a question about the EU when he also appeared recently on another Question Time. So it's possibly a half time score draw at the moment.

Of course, as a party member, I know that both Tim and Norman are hard working politicians. And, an added bonus, they managed to survive the 'Night of the Long Knives' on 7/8 May, so they must, like that well known Dutch lager, be getting to the parts that 47 of their former colleagues couldn't reach! But, had I not been aware of their record and was basing my judgement purely on those two most recent performances, it would be pretty clear whom I would have picked as the winner! And yet, whoever wins the votes - and let's hope that the Royal Mail delivers all the ballot papers on time on this occasion - he will be under massive scrutiny from the media and any slip will be unmercifully picked up and elaborated to the exclusion of all the good things he may say or do. If you are in any doubt, just ask Messrs Clegg, Lawes and Huhne, to name just three. So, chaps, better look in that cupboard to make sure that there are no skeletons rattling around! The ultimate test will be who is best equipped to come over to non believers as a person, whom you might want to trust with the nuclear button in an emergency. If you need any help, just ask Ed Miliband.

However, with a potential field of seven MPs, the party has not got much of a choice, has it? I think I am going to sit back and see how the campaign pans out before casting my vote. Whoever wins the poisoned chalice has got a tough five years ahead of them, and, like Moses, it's unlikely that they, or I, will be joining the party, if it indeed survives in its present form, in the Promised Land.

Cllr John Marriott