Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Another reason to support Chris Huhne...and a bogus reason for supporting Ming Campbell

With the Lib Dem leadership battle entering its final stages, it is now widely perceived to be a two-horse race between Chris Huhne and Sir Menzies Campbell.

I've made no secret of my view on this blog and in my newspaper columns that Huhne is the man, and here's another reason for supporting him.

The indefatigable Gareth Young of the Campaign for an English Parliament Newsblog has been asking each of the candidates for their views on the "English Question."

While Simon Hughes fudged about with the discredited (and unworkable) "English Votes on English Laws" idea (EVoEL for short) Huhne correctly recognised that sorting out the mess of Labour's assymetric devolution strategy will require starting again from scratch.

"We need a comprehensive constitutional settlement which deals with this issue along with others - and indeed deals with financial matters. Because a lot of matters which are meant to be only English, if they affect public spending, affect Scotland through the Barnett formula," he said.

Quite right. Any solution which fails to include the Barnett Formula (see previous posts) would simply leave England under-financed and over-taxed as well as under-represented. More on this here.

Meanwhile....the Campbell campaign has been wheeling out the Lib Dem grandees in support, with David Steel making the following (preposterous) claim of Sir Ming:

"His bad luck was not to enter the Commons earlier than he did in 1987. Had he done so, he would probably have been leader instead of Charles Kennedy and possibly even Paddy Ashdown."

Er, wrong. The reason Campbell did not get the leadership in 1999 - indeed, the reason why politically he was not in a position even to contest it - was because he allowed himself to become mixed up in Paddy's abortive project to merge with New Labour.

Kennedy, on the other hand, recognised which way the wind was blowing in the party, and successfully managed to distance himself from it.

What this provides is further demonstration, as if it were needed, that Kennedy's political judgement was always superior to the man who has plotted so remorselessly to replace him.

More on this at Jonathan Calder's blog, here.


Gareth said...

Despite the obvious flaws in Hughes' plans I would still prefer him as leader.

The English Question is not one that he has been forced to adopt a position on because of the leadership contest. Over the years he has consistently made it an issue, and out of the three potential leaders I think he is the one to make the Lib Dems address the issue.

I have a feeling that under Huhne or Campbell the issue would just be dropped. It is too complicated a problem to consider when you have little chance of gaining power and affecting constitutional change. And if you don't feel passionately about it....

Gareth said...

I should also point out that I asked all three for their views and only Huhne didn't reply to my email.

Paul Linford said...

Er, Toque....hate to accuse you of inconsistency, but your blog entry "Hughes confused" says that "only Huhne gets it right" on this issue while Hughes is, well, confused.

What did Campbell have to say? Sorry if you did a post on this and I missed it.

Gareth said...

This is what Ming had to say in the email that I received from him.

I agree that Huhne is correct on the issue but I don't think that he has a passion for it like Hughes. I would rather someone that is mistaken, but who has the drive to persue an agenda for change, was the leader. I don't think that's necessarily inconsistency on my part. Hughes has been outspoken on England's behalf for years, I think Huhne and Campbell have been forced to adopt a position because of the political climate. The most important thing for me is that there is a debate within the Lib Dems that will reverberate across British politics, the technicalities of the solution and individual views on the solution are not that important at this stage.

I will email you the Campbell interview that prompted my letter to him. You may find it interesting.

Paul Linford said...

You may be right but as a financial specialist Huhne does at least know what the Barnett Formula is. I think getting rid of this would be a very good start to tackling the English Question.

Drew said...

In my experience, when Lib Dem politicians mention the Barnett Formula it is not prompted by concern for England, Paul. On occasions when they have elaborated, concern that Scotland continues to enjoy its financial advantage is their main theme.

Of course, if Mr Huhne is concerned for England, he has plenty of opportunities to say so.

Gareth said...

Well said Andy. I haven't noticed Huhne being a passionate defender of England.

And we know where Campbell's loyalties lie.

Huhne is a promosing politician, and that's a about the biggest insult that I can pay to the man. I hope to stand corrected should he win.