Friday, June 04, 2010

Why it Has to be Hughes

Long suffering readers of my blog may remember that it was Simon's bid to become party leader that was the reason Looz Muze ever got going in the first place, so as you might suspect, despite the sad reality that members don't get a say in who becomes deputy leader (why not?) I am afraid I still feel compelled to lob in my own 2 penneth on the subject.

A while ago some droll soul commented on a blog post where I had mentioned that a fellow councillor referred to me as "the late Linda Jack, "oh that must be why you are a fan of Simon Hughes." Er.............well, it may help that I can fully appreciate just how hard it is to constantly try and fit a quart into a pint pot.......unbusy people are rarely late let's face it...but no that is not my reason for supporting him. Despite the fact that he made such an impassioned speech at the special conference, enough to solicit a hug from Nick, despite the fact that this was one of the reason I left Birmingham feeling even more marginalised and bereft than usual, I still, along with 60% of members it seems, really hope he becomes deputy leader. For me it will be a little reassurance as I try to steady my Liberal Democrat dingy on a sea of uncertain murky blue waters.

Recently I was chatting to a pal, who though not affiliated to any party, but who had been thinking about joining us, is now seriously considering becoming a Labour Party member because she feels so let down and betrayed by us. This is someone who is such a kindred spirit on so many levels, we laugh at the same things, we cry at the same things. We both feel desperate about a society where so many are still excluded because of poverty, or who they are, what they believe or feeling they "aren't clever enough" to have a right to have a say (sounds a bit like no one should be enslaved by poverty ignorance or conformity doesn't it?). It is because of her and people like her, who share our values, who can't understand why we have hopped into bed with a party that doesn't even understand our values, let alone share them that it is essential we keep the flame of Liberal Democracy burning brightly.

The advantage of having Simon as deputy leader will be that he will not be muzzled in the way Nick Clegg clearly is now. Already I am beginning to feel a bit of the "I used to know him before he was famous" – he seems to have slipped out of sight a bit, I am worried that he may well just get absorbed by some kind of osmosis and completely lose connection with the grassroots, the backbone of the party. So having Simon in what has suddenly become a far more significant role, I believe will help to counteract that. Bizarrely it will be the deputy leader who becomes the voice of the party, the guardian of our values, the figurehead. As I have said before I have a lot of time for Tim Farron, he is clearly a "one to watch" I don't believe he yet has the degree of gravitas, kudos or credibility both within the party and the media, to be able to ensure the voice of Liberal Democracy continues to be heard. The danger also would be he would be easier to ignore, Simon, as we know, is adept at making sure he isn't ignored!

So the election next week becomes hugely significant. The deputy leader, whoever he is, will have a hugely demanding task. Can he retain both the trust of the leader and the activists? Can he reassure those of us who are feeling extremely wobbly about where we find ourselves and who are concerned about the long term future of the party? Will he be able to successfully articulate what it is that defines us that distinguishes us from the Tories? Whoever wins, I wish them well, our collective future depends on it.