It's civil war in the Lib Dems

Hunter caught the last few minutes of Thursday's Question Time, staring Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne. Surprisingly, it was left to Huhne to defend the government's decision to renew Trident. Clegg sounded as if he had been harangued the night before by Bruce Kent of the CND. Many people wrongly assumed that he was the "sensible" one of the two contenders. Clegg was weak, weak, weak - and reminded Hunter how Tony Blair used those words to taunt John Major back in the mid nineties.

Today, Hunter watched the Politics Show where it was revealed that somebody in Huhne's office published a document called "Calamity Clegg". Clegg's campaign team have lodged an official complaint with the party's chief whip

Conservatives, over a year ago, had our own leadership contest: the candidates were civil to each other (as were their supporters), policies were discussed in a calm and civilised fashion and our support rocketed.

The Lib Dems had a wonderful opportunity to raise their profile and support during these last weeks. They have wasted it. Even on Lib Dem Voice, the normally subdued blog for Lib Dem members and supporters, civil war has broken out. Here are some examples (taken from LDV):

"When attending the hustings event in Leeds, Huhne challenged Clegg on School Vouchers, and Clegg adamantly denied he was in favour.

Huhne is coming across as the school bully, not doing himself any favours!"
- Tom

"I think all of this stuff from Chris is slightly pointless. If Nick says that he doesn’t believe something then why on earth won’t Chris believe him?" - Rob Blackie

"Not sure how to react to the Calamity Clegg stuff, that looks poor but Huhne obviously didn’t know anything about it. OTOH, Clegg looked flustered, Huhne hectoring. Not good for either" - MatGB

"I’ve found both unedifying on that: Chris with a nasty edge, and Nick repeating the same carefully prepared soundbite rather than dealing with what he actually said to the Scotsman. And, having said Chris was coming over as nasty, at least he’s open about it: I notice Chris said Nick would be a good leader and Nick wriggled out of saying anything positive about Chris" - Alex Wilcock

"The tone of this debate is very off-putting. The message is not getting across. A great opportunity lost"
- David

"I thought Huhne’s bullying and hectoring was shocking. Well done to Nick for trying (despite being constantly talked over) to stick to talking about issues that really matter to voters" - Matthew

"The only winners of that shambles were Brown & Cameron!" - Hywel Morgan

"Blimey - didn’t fall asleep watching this one. Chris made a right mess of it" - Ruth Bright

"Well, am in disbelief. We needed that particular exchange like a hole in the head! It will have done us no good at all with the public at large - cue more media comments about ‘nasty party’.

At the start of the contest, I favoured Nick but had wavered of late because he had seemed a bit lacklustre and Chris seemed to want it more. Now, he seems to want it too much? Anyway, ‘Calamity Clegg’ briefing v bad, whether Chris knew of it or it just came out of his campaign office. He might get over it, but probably shouldn’t. The least that can be said is that it’s not our job to produce yet more amusing nicknames about our own for The Sun.

I thought Nick - when he could get a sentence out - reacted as best he could, he’s obviously exasperated by the way he’s being opposed, but tried not to show it too much. Still, it must be frustrating to keep having to refute what your opponent says you’re saying, rather than getting to talk about your own ideas, and he deserves some credit for not getting all aggressive back (which really would have made a great news story…both candidates at each others’ throats…)

The best that can be said is that it’s helped me decide, if only for the wrong reasons.

Much more importantly, how do we go forward from here?"
- John in Penarth

"Shit, I’ve only just woken up" - Laurence Boyce

"Vince Cable, in his capacity as acting leader, needs to have a quiet word with Chris, especially, and Nick to tell them to cool it. That was unedifying spectacle and as a declared Huhne supporter I am now worried that if wins he will not be able to deliver a united party" - RMC

"Terrible - but not as bad as the head-to-head spat just shown on the South West segment - it descended into a terrible school ground argument.

Just what the party didn’t need down here.

I’m all for a bit of oomph in our leadership contest but that was just plain silly. My vote is undecided again"
- Member in the South West

"well as a member I am finding it increasingly difficult to choose between Clegg and Huhne. I think Huhne performs well but today’s show and his campaign has shown him to be rude and aggressive. Clegg is good at performing pre-written soundbites and speeches but not good at speaking out of script. He comes across as wishy washy at times. So I have no idea who to vote for" - Chris

"It would be interesting to find out who wrote the Calamity Clegg document, was it an MP?

It’s a bit rich for Chris to say that he isn’t aware of everything that comes from his campaign team"
- Cheltenham Robin

The BBC's Guto Harri has summoned it up quite well on his blog, observing: "It is striking - within a party that's generally regarded as nice - how nasty the Liberal Democrats are quietly capable of being."

1 comment:

David Allen said...

Guto Harri's remark is best:
"It is striking - within a party that's generally regarded as nice - how nasty the Liberal Democrats are quietly capable of being."
Everyone involved in politics has long known about the LibDems and their spiteful personal attacks _ what a pleasant change to see them turning on each other in public. It couldn't happen to a nicer party.