One of the possible perils of political blogging is that you leave a trail of words behind you – on the public record – even as events and your own views may have moved on. So it was with a little trepidation that I went back to check what I wrote about the previous Liberal Democrat leadership election.
However, reading why I said back then that Chris Huhne was the right choice, I think the words are still just as relevant this time round:
Imagine the scene. It’s a few weeks before the next general election.
Gordon Brown – now Prime Minister – is reeling off another of his lists of economic statistics. He is about to launch New Labour’s general election campaign centred – as they have all been – on their economic record.
Who as Liberal Democrat leader could match him economic fact for economic fact in the debate in Parliament? Who will persuade leading journalists during the subsequent forensic media cross-examination as regards those key pocket-book issues?
For me, the clear answer is Chris Huhne.
Chris’s record as an economist, successful businessman and senior economics journalist give him the skills and expertise to do just that.
Of course credibility is not the only thing. Important to me too are the beliefs behind Chris’s economic credibility. A strong belief in the environment – to be protected and restored by taxing the activities that damage it while using the revenues to provide alternatives such as better public transport. A commitment to social justice, most importantly by taking the poorest out of income tax all together.
Chris has the right priorities for our party, and decades of experience campaigning for them.
But Chris also showed his strength of character long before entering politics. One of his first assignments as a journalist was reporting undercover from India during Mrs Ghandi’s crisis.
Chris stood up to Robert Maxwell – continuing to report his wrongdoings despite having four libel writs outstanding. This shows a certain bravery and principle that was sorely missing from many journalists who took the easy option and turned a blind eye to Maxwell’s crimes.
Now that’s the mix of principles and toughness we need in our next leader. Yes, Nick would make a great leader – but I think Chris’s record shows he would be even better. As The Times reported of him yesterday:
A FIGHTER WHO KNOWS HOW TO CAUSE TROUBLE
He would not fall for any of our [journalist] tricks because he knows them all, and more: interviewing Mr Huhne is like circling an intense, watchful cat that seems perfectly friendly but is probably quite dangerous.
When you look at the mess Labour is making of our running our country and public services – and the way in which Cameron’s Conservatives are so often aping Labour’s policies – it’s that sort of tough fighter we need to break the cosy Labour-Conservative consensus.
When he lost, I made a comment. I hope that one day the society will grow up to understand that we were right.