Thursday, October 18, 2007

Clegg in the driving seat

There is no disguising the fact that Steve Webb's decision to back out of the Lib Dem leadership contest and back Nick Clegg is a serious blow to Chris Huhne's hopes.

Webb was to have been the candidate of the social liberal, pro-redistribution wing of the party and had he stood the Huhne camp will have been reckoning on the majority of his votes transferring to their candidate on the second ballot.

Not only will that not now happen, but Webb is actually signalling that people who would have voted for him should support Clegg, enabling the Sheffield MP to claim that he is the candidate who can unite both wings of the party.

It's a very shrewd move on Webb's part. He wouldn't have won the leadership, but by backing the candiate most likely to, he has almost certainly earned himself a top-ranking job in Clegg's new Shadow Cabinet line-up.

My question is whether the social liberals who have decided to back Clegg rather than the more left-leaning Huhne - Julia Goldsworthy is another - will end up getting decidely more than they are bargaining for.

I think he could well turn out to be a Tony Blair figure in more ways than one, defining himself in oppositon to his party's traditional supporters. Under Clegg, the social liberal agenda could end up as dead a duck as democratic socialism under Blair.

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Anonymous said...

Paul, whilst your stuff is usually good, I'm afraid doesn't really demonstrate a good understanding of Lib Dem politics (mind you, there's not been much commentary thus far that has). Being perceived as economically liberal does not equate to being against social liberalism (though it could be considered to be antithetical to social democrat-type politics). I'd also question whether there is any evidence that Huhne is "left-leaning", or indeed that he is any more left wing than Clegg

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that Webb will find it comfortable to support someone who is clearly on the Right of the party. Huhne would obviously have preferred the support, but nothing is set in stone yet.

Paul Linford said...


I'm afraid I see no evidence that Clegg is anything other than a classic economic liberal. Unlike 99pc of Lib Dem members, I don't think he even believes in redistribution, which is why I think Mr Webb and others are going to get much more (or rather, less) than they bargained for.

Anyway, more importantly, when is Labour Watch coming back?