Thursday, November 01, 2007

The real test for Huhne's "left" credentials.............

Tomorrow we will learn who Simon Hughes will give his support to in the leadership race. Up until now, as party President, he has kept his counsel. There has been a lot of lazy analysis in the media about who is the left and who is the right candidate. Already, many of those who are regarded as representing the left of the party have come out in support of Nick. But if anyone can be regarded as the darling of the left it has to be Simon Hughes. I can't imagine Simon supporting a "Cameron stunt double"..............so I await with interest his decision.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

yes, everyone knows he will come out for nick... easy to do I suppose when clegg doesn't seem to have any policies, and denies those he does (like moving to faux-market solutions of school vouchers that merely benefit the well off).

Anthony said...

Anon above, unlike the other parties, the Lib Dems' leader doesn't determine its policies, so your comment is pretty irrelevant. Policy is made by conference

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 8.23, "school vouchers that merely benefit the well off" - So you mean, that for instance in the Netherlands, where the school vouchers have been in use for over 90 years, only the well off have had decent education? I think that in that respect the Netherlands is a much more egalitarian society than UK. In the Netherlands also children from less priviledged homes have the opportunity to better education than in UK.

Andy Mayer said...

Chris, in my view, has blundered by making opposition to vouchers a manifesto item. While I wouldn't expect the Liberal Democrats to come out in favour of compulsory nationwide vouchers for all schools, they don't need to. This is surely precisely the sort of issue that should be decided locally and decentralised. If that happens we would then see very clearly whether empowered LEAs or empowered parents were better at delivering school improvements and innovation across the board and for the most vulnerable.

Chris's manifesto on the other hand simply dismisses the idea based on scant evidence either against or for any alternative. That's not radical, not consistent with a belief in decentralisation, and not in my view a smart way to engage the British people in the debate about how we improve our schools.

RobC said...

Anthony are you saying as conference determines policy we may as well elect the best PR man/communicator who I presume you think is Clegg and ignore what they say or believe?

As for Simon Hughes like many other MP's he will go for the winner already christened within the media ie Nick.

Matthew Huntbach said...

I don't see Simon Hughes as the "darling of the left". I like Simon, and he's done a lot for the party, but I don't see him as a great thinker or source of ideas on the left of the party. Part of the problem has been that the left of the party has lacked an obvious parliamentary champion in the way people like Nick Clegg and David Laws have become champions of the right. Simon Hughes has been pushed into that role by virtue of being a long-standing MP who isn't closely associated with the right-wing faction, but I don't think he's been really comfortable in it, and neither do I think people on the left of the party have always been comfortable with Hughes as the person supposed to lead that viewpoint in the party leadership.
As someone who is on the left of the party, I'm not too concerned where Simon goes; I think in any case a lot of the MPs' endorsements may have to do with personal issues in the Parliamentary party itself, rather than ideological positions.

It's interesting to see that Huhne, who wasn't particularly associated with the left before the leadership campaign, does now seem to be emerging saying the sort of things that appeal to the left. Perhaps circumstances have forced him that way as he needs to take a clear position that distinguishes him from Clegg. I think it probably true that in reality Huhne and Clegg don't differ an awful lot on left-right issues. However, I've moved from a position where I wasn't particularly happy with the choice of two, to one where I'm enthusiastic for Huhne as he's saying the things that motivate me.

As for Clegg, I regret he's continuing to make me feel very uncomfortable, I'm just not hearing anything from him which motivates me to go out and pound the streets for the party, or donate my time and money to it. People are saying he's wanting to "unite the tribes" but here I am one of the tribes who, unless Clegg manages to say something which makes me feel he has some real concerns for economic equality issues, will feel very much split off from the party if he wins.

Jeremy Hargreaves said...

Anonymous at 8.23 can you please point us to the evidence for your claim that Clegg supports school vouchers? As you say, this is not what he has said so can you please provide evidence for this claim.

The 'pupil premium' scheme which Nick has strongly backed (and which party conference approved last month) is not a vouchers scheme, and although it would weight spending towards some kinds of children, this is explicitly towards more deprived children (according to recognised criteria), not more well-off ones.

Matthew Huntbach said...

Perhaps some of you talking about "vouchers" for schools can say exactly what you mean by it, and how it differs from the way school places are allocated already. Despite what media commentators often say, parents already have a choice of which LEA schools to send their children to. What generally happens is that the clued-up parents make sure their choices are carefully considered, while the ones with less care have more of a tendency to choose the nearest schools. Consequence is, schools perceived as good have many more applications than they have places, it's the other way round with schools perceived as weak. The big issue is how is the choice of who to accept made when there are more pupils seeking places than the school can accommodate. How does a "voucher" scheme differ from this? While I think I might know, it would be useful to establish exactly what we mean before throwing accusations about either candidate on whether we think they support it or not.

Andy Mayer said...

There are many different voucher schemes Matthew, just as there are many different non-voucher schemes for allocating school places. I'd let local authorities, subject to local consultation and expert advice, decide whether or not they wanted to use any of them as a method of allocating school places rather than mandating a unitary system from Whitehall.

With different systems in play in different areas we'd soon see which worked best. We might find that allocation and lotteries for example were best for urban areas with high degrees of poverty while vouchers worked well in largely middle-income suburbs. Opposition groups could campaign for or against them as they saw fit.

Ultimately more parents would be empowered both directly and through the ballot box. Isn't that what a radical liberal decentralisation agenda is all about?

Matthew Huntbach said...

Yes, I know there are many different voucher schemes. That's precisely why I am saying arguments like "X supports vouchers and Y does not support vouchers" are pointless unless we first define what we mean by "vouchers".

James Graham said...

Linda: Simon is certainly a darling of the left, but in the soggy socialist sense, not the social liberal sense - they are very different approaches. I'm afraid to say that having seen his instincts in action, I would consider his endorsement for any candidate a good reason to vote the other way.

Linda Jack said...

Well James, can you define the "soggy socialist" sense? I have been accused of a lot of things in my time, but soggy.....never!

Interesting debate about vouchers. I certainly have only heard Nick endorse our current pupil premium, which is a really innovative idea and one that has the potential to make a real difference.