Thursday, October 25, 2007

I've still not made up my mind

In my Saturday column last weekend, which can be read HERE, I set out the dilemma currently facing the Liberal Democrats thus:

"Can they bring themselves to vote for someone whose views they know to be well to the right of their own, in the knowledge that he is the candidate most likely to win them more seats?"

I am still unsure in my own mind what the answer is. So, for that matter, are at least three of the Lib Dem bloggers I have the most respect for - Jonathan Calder, James Graham and Paul Walter.

What I am sure of, as I argued HERE, is that the choice is a very real one which will have repercussions not just for the the Lib Dems but for the whole balance of British political debate.

There was no such dilemma last time round. Up against Sir Ming Campbell and Simon Hughes, Chris Huhne was easily the most right-wing of the candidates, and thus the one most likely to win seats off the Tories. But his views were still identifiably social democratic in a way that Nick Clegg's are not.

My heart still says Huhne. He is much the more centrist of the two candidates, has made clear he is prepared to use the tax system in the cause both of greater equality and a greener environment, and has insisted that proportional representation should remain a precondition of any post-election deal with the other parties.

By contrast, Clegg appears to be the establishment candidate, favoured by the very same numpty MPs who thought replacing Chatshow Charlie with Mogadon Ming would restore the party's fortunes.

Part of me admires his courage in that he is clearly running against his party in this election, but like Matthew Huntbach I have no illusions about what that will mean - that most of the principles the left of the party has most held dear will end up being sold down the river.

So if what was at stake was simply the future of the Liberal Democrats as a progressive, social democratic party, it would be a no brainer: vote Huhne.

But what is at stake goes much wider than that - specifically, the fact that the choice could have very clear implications for how many people end up voting Conservative at the next general election.

If the greater cause of British social democracy requires that David Cameron has to be stopped in order that the governance of this country should continue to reflect the views of its natural centre-left majority, then Clegg is clearly the more sensible choice.

It's a tricky one, isn't it? Maybe you, dear readers, can help me make up my mind by casting your preferences HERE.

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