We’ve had some pretty strange and random articles appearing all over the place about who might replace Nick Clegg. The least strange and random was of course this by my co-editor Stephen Tall.
People who know Graeme Littlejohn have generally been laughing their heads off at the notion that he’s been brought in as Danny Alexander’s Head of Office as some Machiavelli who’s going to win him the leadership. That’s been in a couple of papers now and I’m just wondering who on earth is spreading this stuff. Actually, I do have some ideas, but these are better kept to myself for the time being.
Yesterday, it was the turn of Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael to get the Leadership Speculation Treatment, by Thomas Byrne over at the New Statesman.:
Carmichael has managed to avoid falling prey to the left/right divide emerging more clearly in the party as it gets used to power. “He could be a compromise candidate… post-coalition we need someone to hold the party together. Alistair might be the guy,” one Lib Dem told me. As chief whip for the Lib Dems before becoming Scottish Secretary, he will know where the bodies are buried. Not only did this position make building a relationship with all the MPs in the party compulsory, it also meant he commanded their respect. Don’t mess with Carmichael.
Hmm. His style as Chief Whip had more to do with dishing out biscuits rather than waving his wand around as this Total Politics interview shows.
But, you know, as far as the leadership is concerned, yes, he’d be a competent and worthy candidate, but whether he’d stand is another thing. It’s not that long since he was teasing us about leaving politics.
What will be will be, though. A leadership contest is unlikely before at the very least 2015 and maybe not even then. And I’m not going to complain about that.
What I find utterly infuriating is a quote in the article, apparently from “a campaign staffer in the party.” It’s about Tim Farron. And about you and me. And it’s insulting. You might like to sit down, get yourself a cup of tea, a biscuit and some smelling salts before you read it.
“There are a lot of Lib Dems out there who don’t want Tim Farron to be leader. When people say he is popular with the grassroots, they mean popular with the sandal wearers, but he’s not credible as a national political leader. He’s not a statesman.”
Apparently, a member of party staff has been mean about Tim and referred to those many party activists who have a lot of time for him as “sandal wearers.” I can’t honestly think of anyone actually working on proper election campaigns who would ever say such an insulting or dismissive thing. They know that they need every activist motivated and out there, telling the Liberal Democrat story, if we are going to have a hope in hell of achieving our goals this year and next. They would never insult members of the party who, by and large, have kept on working patiently on the ground.
But, it seems, somebody did give this quote to Byrne. It’s not the first time Tim Farron has been on the receiving end of poison from Liberal Democrats. Vince Cable took a fairly inept pelting too. On the other hand, anonymous briefings against the leader have been relatively few and far between.The only real public complainers, Lembit and Matthew Oakeshott, go on the record and nobody really takes any notice.
I don’t want to over-egg the pudding, because, by and large, members of the party have been pretty civilised, wherever they stand on the Coalition. Compared to Labour’s toxic factionalism and the hatred of Cameron in some areas of the Conservative party, we are a bunch of cuddly teddy bears in comparison. But when the instinct to show our claws takes hold, we really need to quash it. Nobody should be talking about anyone to the media in these terms. Our energy needs to go into winning elections, not fighting petty, internal battles on the pages of the media.
Having a go at political rivals is one thing (but still not good), reinforcing media stereotypes of hard-working activists takes it to a whole new level of horrible. Whoever you are, just stop it. Now. No good can ever come of it.
Benjamin Franklin is often quoted by liberals in respect of the balance between liberty and security. He also had something wise to say about sticking together:
We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.