I’ll be honest, I am yet to make up my mind on who to vote for in this year’s leadership election. Both Ed Davey and Layla Moran are competent, but neither stick out as obvious leaders in the way Ashdown and Kennedy did when they rose through the ranks.
I am disappointed by their reliance on slogans. The most grating so far has been Layla’s insistence on her ‘cut through’ to the media as a defining quality. First, Layla getting cut through is not the same as the Liberal Democrats getting more attention from the media circus. Second, this is not necessarily good cut through. Jo Swinson made the same case in her Channel 4 debate with Ed Davey last year, and look how 2019 turned out.
Ed on the other hand, appears to have lost the energy for the fight. I’m sure both candidates and the entire parliamentary party are exhausted, not just from the long contest, but also by the endless constituency work coming in following the wake of the Covid crisis. But even beyond this, I believe this is still an issue for those undecided. Whilst I don’t think Ed is part of an ‘establishment’ within the party, as some have suggested, I do question whether someone who struggled to distinguish himself from Jo Swinson last year is the right person to take the party forward to the next general election. Surely these clips will be played back to him in future, alongside his record in the Westminster voting lobbies during the Coalition?
I will vote. I always have done and always will. But I have serious doubts about both candidates. Of course, I will go on to campaign hard for the eventual winner, but I get the sense this is the best of a rather depleted and tired bunch of MPs.
I do think the membership should consider pushing to reform the eligibility for the leadership. Why not allow other elected officials to run – councillors and mayors etc…? Or even ordinary members! Perhaps the threshold for nominations could go up from 200 to 1000/2000 to counter the inevitable surge in campaigns? But this is perhaps for a later date and another article…
So, in the final stretch of this long contest, I ask both candidates to raise their game. Stop the slogans. Go into more depth. Talk about the country, and not just Liberal Democrat activists. Be brave. Talk beyond policy and don’t rely on social media so much. Most members do not see their Twitter feeds and many in my circle of Lib Dems did not even know there was a contest until leaflets started coming through the door.
Running for the leadership is a hard slog – especially this year – but this contest has become nasty and disappointing. I thank Layla and Ed for their effort and hard work. It’s not an easy job running this race, let alone life after winning. I hope we can all pull together at the end in the spirit of unity.
But a friendly reminder, although this is an internal contest, the candidates are also on view to the press, other parties and the wider electorate.
Stacey is a Liberal Democrat member from Edinburgh.