Monday, February 13, 2006

Hughes vs Huhne

Ok now comes the difficult bit. For reasons which I have already documented here Ming Campbell has now become my third choice which at least makes life a little easier. The difficult bit is weighing up the pros and the cons of the two remaining contenders for my first preference.

So here is a brief resume of my list of pros and cons so far

Hughes Pros

The most passionate and inspiring speaker who communicates a positive Lib Dem vision

Bigger constituency majority.

Experience in parliament.

Deeper understanding over a broad range of subjects.

Energy and enthusiasm.

Hughes Cons

Not the most coherent when arguing policy detail (seems too long winded and unfocussed).

His manner can appear a little disordered.

Lack of time keeping.

Setting unrealistic targets e.g. 100,000 members whilst president (and possibly not following through on them).

Judgement e.g. the long equivocation over his sexuality and inability to make a clear stand on being bisexual and not gay (e.g. on Question Time). Also his inability to understand that (at present) the vast majority of the general public do not differentiate between gay and bisexual.

Huhne Pros

Experience as an ecomomist, journalist and MEP.

Great on Taxation and Economy.

Good on policy generally.

Has created a credible campaign seemingly from nowhere.

Huhne Cons

Lack of experience as an MP.

Small majority (maybe his profile as leader will help but it will also make him a target).

Came across as weaker in non areas other than the economy.

Lacks passion and charisma in presenting his case.

So what does everyone else think? Are there other strong arguments for or against Simon or Chris that I ought to weigh in the balance before casting my vote?



Tag Lib Dems

8 comments:

James said...

I think you are too kind on Hughes. His problem is not simply that he sets unrealistic targets (in fact he called for the party's membership to exceed Labour's, i.e. triple what it is now), but that he likes to publically announce targets at all (e.g. it is not beyond the realm of possibility that we might get 100+ MPs at the next general election - it is plain daft to mention ANY figure publicly).

Secondly, you miss out his tendency to be autocratic. In his time as president he has repeatedly announced his plans to the press before deigning to discuss them with the relevant committee. His decision to create Deputy Presidents is another example.

Thirdly, there is the question of honesty. His lie on Question Time last week that he had not bad-mouthed the other candidates just two days before suggests the party would constantly be trying to firefight over yet another stupid denial. He his pathologically incapable of accepting responsibility for his own words and actions.

That is why, for his pros (and politically I have a lot of sympathy for his position), he is a very distant 3rd on my ballot paper.

Will said...

I have to agree with what James says about Hughes.

As for the Huhne pros: he's also strong on constitutional reform and localism.

And cons: I'll repeat what I've said before about his majority - the Tories poured into Eastleigh in 2005 and still didn't manage to take it. Next time, he'll be the incumbent and, if leader, will have a high profile.

His lack of experience as an MP doesn't bother me much. When people complain about politicians being distant and living in their own world, having someone who hasn't been ensconced in Westminster for 20 years may be a good thing.

The passion/charisma thing is obviously subjective - I've found him just as passionate as the other two when he isn't reading from a script.

Paul said...

I think you have under-estimated Huhne's passion/charisma - I thought he came over very strongly on Question Time. Come election time, it does help to have his large family to be profiled. Whether we like it or not, leader's private lives do get the spotlight at election time. I also think Huhnes organisational skills are superb. He is the only MEP we regularly received updates from. I think you are under-selling his "experience as an MP". He was an MEP and a high profile one at that and I think experience of the European parliament can to some extent be more useful than experience of the Westminster club.

I think Hughes can really excite a Liberal audience but I don't think that travels to a general voting audience. Also, he comes across as shifty. I think it is something to do with his eyes and his barrister's weasley way with words. When it comes to election time and they want to profile Hughes' family and home life there will be little to focus on. I also don't think that a large number of MPs are keen on Hughes leading them whereas they would live with Huhne.

I also think it is unacceptable to be late to a hustings. We had enough of that with Charlie boy.

I also think that Huhne will help us draw a line under all the nonsense of the past couple of months. Hughes will not - the media will still be mentioning his equivocation about his sexuality, if only at the bottom of the story, from now until the polls close at the next general election.

Stephen Glenn said...

Tony,

I'll give you the pro Hughes points after I finish work today.

Stephen

Andy said...

Personally, I am in something of the reverse boat. I have decided Hughes is number 1 on my list, but don't know how to order the other two. Leaning towards Huhne 2nd, though. Anyway, your points:

Hughes Pros

Agree with all of that.

Hughes Cons

Not the most coherent when arguing policy detail (seems too long winded and unfocussed).

Indeed, wouldn't argue with that. But then, surely as leader the detail is for the people below you. A leader, as I would want to see one anyway, is there to do the 'vision thing'.

His manner can appear a little disordered...Lack of time keeping.

Sometimes, but, again, as leader that's less of an issue. Aides can quite easily be given responsibility for keeping him on track.

Setting unrealistic targets e.g. 100,000 members whilst president (and possibly not following through on them).

That one, fair enough. Though I can sympathise with his thoughts at the time that 100,000 shouldn't be out of the question.

Judgement e.g. the long equivocation over his sexuality and inability to make a clear stand on being bisexual and not gay (e.g. on Question Time). Also his inability to understand that (at present) the vast majority of the general public do not differentiate between gay and bisexual.

I think he knows people don't distinguish gay from bisexual. Surely that's why he hasn't really majored on it in his defence of his words? I agree that it's an unfortunate lack of judgement in media relations, but I don't think it will be that much of an issue come the election. After all, for the media to keep on would look like holding a grudge. They have already forgotten David Cameron's drugs questions.

Huhne

Agree with all of those points.

of course, as a Hughes supporter, I am likely to try to justify my decision to myself and others as I have done above. So, really, it's up to you. I would just like to question one thing though: Is Hughes really any shiftier seeming than many politicians? Frankly, I don't find him that bad at all, if anything he has a damaging amount of honesty. He could use some work on his facial expressions whilst listening to others; several times on Question Time he was caught on camera looking unflattering. But that's the kind of thing it's easy to work on. I don't think Huhne could as easily manufacture himself a whole load of charisma.

Will said...

"But then, surely as leader the detail is for the people below you. A leader, as I would want to see one anyway, is there to do the 'vision thing'."

While I agree in principle, it was a perceived - perhaps unfairly - lack of detailed understanding of LIT that got CK into trouble during the GE.

Stephen Glenn said...

As with Andy I agree with most of the pros and cons on both lists that you have. So I'll try and cover different ground.

Regarding Simon's inherent lateness having seen the guy up close at three major campaigns in the last 12 months I know that one reason he appears to be late is that he tends to overindulge at anything that has gone before. I remember having to urge him that is was time to leave both Edinburgh South and Livingston in order to catch his plane back as he was so encroached in what he was doing.

The debates have shown one fallacy in Chris and to an extent Ming which is something Simon does not suffer from it is a broad understanding of a considerable number of policy areas. Reading the postings from other hustings, I don't get to do mine until Sunday; it appears that this is the view across the country.

Is 100,000 an unrealistic goal? If each member were to recruit one new member a year we’d be looking at considerably more than that by the end of Simon's term of presidency. Having been responsible for 2 1/5 in the last 12 months I know it is doable.

As for 100+ MPs which someone has also criticised I believe we can do it. Labour appear to be on the point of haemorrhaging Cameron is not making an impact in the areas he needs to have an effect. Why not?

As Andy says a leader need the vision thing. Simon certainly is not lacking in that.

One thing to add against Chris is he not a natural campaigner. (Bear in mind I missed all the leadership candidates during the campaign) However, when Chris came up to Dunfermline he got along side everyone in the office at the time as did Simon. But people I've met said that Simon was the most enthusiastic about what was going on and threw himself into it. If we are looking for 37+ more seats next time out, you need a leader who when he visits those seats carries that enthusiasm over to the exhausted, possibly slightly disheartened team, agent and candidate. I know the lift that Simon gave in Edinburgh South during a tough week and he did the same in Livingston. That lift gets carried over to the electorate through the local activists long after Simon has gone on elsewhere.

That is just some of the reasons I am voting Simon first.

Will said...

"Is 100,000 an unrealistic goal? If each member were to recruit one new member a year we’d be looking at considerably more than that by the end of Simon's term of presidency."

In that scenaro, it would be possible. The question is why Simon hasn't launched such a campaign when achieving this was a manifesto pledge?

"As for 100+ MPs which someone has also criticised I believe we can do it."

The question is not whether it's doable but whether it is a sensible judgement to set an arbitrary figure for success several years before a GE (or at all). Now, if we get 90 next rather, rather than the story being "LibDems increase seats by 50%" it becomes "LibDems fail to meet own target".