Thursday, October 16, 2008

20 Questions to a Presidential Candidate - Looz Views

Thanks to all the candidates for answering my 20 questions. For me their answers seemed to get under their skins a little more than their manifestos do - a view supported by our own Laurence Boyce, who commented "Thanks Linda. This exercise has been more useful than all the other stuff I have read. And I really like these answers. I'm voting Chandila!" Now, I have to confess that having read Chandila's answers I put him more in Laurence's camp than mine!

There is no doubt Simon Hughes is a hard act to follow. He has not only had a consistent public profile, he has been a steadying hand on the tiller in what have been difficult times for our party. At a time of a resurgent(ish!) Tory party, and a Labour party regaining a little of its confidence, we HAVE to be in your face as a party. We MUST be heard and seen - the President will have a crucial role to play in this. This is why I am supporting Lembit.

Candidates answers are here: Ros Scott, Lembit Opik, Chandila Fernando

So - my reactions? Since I got some friendly advice recently about my blogs being too long I will tackle this in bite size pieces - firstly an overall comment, then in more detail later on (if I don't get bored half way through!).

On policy - I was rightly taken to task by both Ros and Lembit for asking the policy questions as this is not the responsibility of the President but the Leader. BUT, I asked those questions for a very good reason. Whether we like it or not, our President DOES have a role in party policy. S/he sits on FPC and feeds into the policy making process - INCLUDING HAVING A VOTE! S/he regularly gets asked about party policy, whether on Newsnight, Question Time or in the media - and as demonstrated in the Trident and Make it Happen debates, gets wheeled out by the leadership when things look a bit dodgy! Now, much has been made of the President being the voice of the membership - as members we expect our voices to be heard NOT just in terms of structures and systems - but also in terms of policy - don't we? But despite this, all three gave answers that gave a clear steer on where they stood on policy issues.

On priorities - All 3 say similar things, a mix of inward and outward looking, but I would like to see more flesh on the bones. What for example does "modernising" mean? Some of us have bad memories about what that meant for "New Labour"!

On our narrative - I would be interested in Neil Stockley's take on this. The variety of the answers perhaps gives a clue to why we find it so difficult to come up with a clear story.

On political heroes - I was delighted to see that 2 of the 3 were women. For Lembit, Benazir Bhutto, for Ros, Sylvia Pankhurst, for Chandila, Nelson Mandela.

On being stranded on a desert island - For Ros it would be David Puttnam and Mark (of course!), for Chandila William Haque and Jenny Willott (interesting combination!) and for greedy Lembit, Stephen Pound, Nigel Evans, Tim Farron and Greg Mullholland - may turn into I'm a politician get me out of here!


Liberal Neil said...

"There is no doubt Simon Hughes is a hard act to follow."


He made one solid pledge -to double party membership.

It has fallen steadily ever since.

How is that a 'hard act to follow'?

Anonymous said...

Undoubtedly Simon Hughes will be an incredibly hard act to follow as Linda says, despite the fact membership did not rise during his four years.

He does lots of small things, besides all the big media and conference appearances. Not many people know Simon personally calls each byelection candidate every Thursday to wish them well. Very small thing to do, but very important if you are in a far away town, with little or know connection to the party top brass at Westminster.

I know Lembit and Ros would continue things like this, and of course visiting local parties the length and breadth of Britain to camapaign and speak at fundraisng dinners.

Im less convinced Chandila would continue these tiny little things which Simon does so well to thank and inspire individual members.

Whilst Chandila is clearly a strong candidate it is this area he is weakest on for my money.

Well done Linda for conducting this exercise.

Neil Stockley said...


Thank you very much for your putting up this list of questions. I have not decided yet who to vote for and these Q & A’s are very helpful.

You asked for my take on the answers to question 13, about what the candidates think the party’s narrative should look like. They have not left me that much the wiser, I’m afraid.

Ros Scott sets out some beliefs and a desired image for the party but does not present a story. She comes close, by supporting “a narrative that talks about giving people power”. But who are the characters in the story? Who would we take power away from? Where do the Lib Dems feature in the story?

Lembit Opik gives some views on party philosophy but then says: “We should be more sparky at portraying it”. OK, but how should we be more “sparky”? And wouldn’t a story be a good idea?

Chandila Fernando says that “Politics is about people and their hopes, dreams and concerns so, we as libdems should see ourselves as the voice of reason in the eyes of the voting public.”

We can all debate whether that really follows. The question is, how would he tell a story that persuades the public to see us “the voice of reason”. For that matter, what is “reason”?

As for the candidates’ narratives about themselves – well, that’s a very different matter. Maybe I’ll cook up a blog about that.

Linda Jack said...

Anonymous number 1 - clearly your anonimity is due to your not wanting to own up to who you are in case you get challenged about just what you have done to boost membership! As I have said before, if we all had Simon's commitment to recruitment we would have far exceeded his promise. If he has a fault it is to have too much faith in his footsoldiers to deliver. Unless you had expected him to deliver every member himself?

Anonymous number 2. Agree totally.

Neil - thanks, and I really look forward to reading your thoughts on the candidates' narrative!

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