By Tom Leatherland
As you will probably know, we’ve got just two MP’s vying to lead our party after Nick Clegg has stepped down as leader. With typical Libdem openness, the two of them are participating in a series of hustings events across the UK, before members votes have to be in by the 15th July.
There was an excellent turnout of members for the Edinburgh hustings, including a good group from Dunfermline, which included at least one member who’s joined since the election. The format of the hustings was simple: each candidate gave a 10 minute presentation, with the other out of the room, and then both answered a series of questions from the floor for the balance of the two hours scheduled.
I guess I’m not alone in having seen more of Tim Farron than Norman Lamb, over the last few years, simply because Tim was our Party President. Then on Friday evening, Norman was on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Any Questions’ programme to which I paid particular attention. He gave several excellent answers which were very well received by the London audience. I was impressed. His leadership bid is also backed by Baroness Shirley Williams who I’ve seen many times, and hold in high regard. I was realising what a strong leadership candidate he is, and he’s clearly well regarded within his Norfolk constituency, as well as by all those who know him for his work in promoting the cause of treating mental health problems.
Tim Farron’s leadership bid is backed by Willie Rennie – another whom I hold in high regard and who has demonstrated sound judgement. So I was paying attention to what both had to say at the hustings. Both gave powerful, liberal, opening addresses. That really didn’t help differentiate them.
Then came the questions, and what a good array of searching questions on widely differing subjects they were, covering personal, political and policy issues. Back came the answers; good liberal answers from them both, but nuances and delivery styles were inevitably different. Both clearly recognised the threat of climate change and renewables, but steered clear of the tricky issue of nuclear power (my views on that may differ from the Party’s!). During the course of the morning, my feeling that we’ve got two strong leadership contenders was confirmed, and I learned a bit more about the background of both of them. Our party should be safe with either of them, but I have to make a choice and cast my vote for one of them.
We were deeply saddened to hear of the tragic news this morning of the death of Charles Kennedy. Charles led the Lib Dems during some of our most successful elections, but more importantly he was a thoroughly decent human being who took part in politics with the genuine desire to make the world a better place.
Charles was a politician who had a positive impact on our society. He stood strongly for Liberal values after being elected in 1983 at the age of only 23. Over his Parliamentary career, he was both Party President and leader. He took the courageous decision to take a stand against the Iraq war, but always backed British servicemen on the front line. This added to the other injustices that he stood for in his strong Liberal values.
Outside of politics, Charles was an active member of the wider community. He was rector of his former University, the University of Glasgow, and was well known for taking the role seriously. He was also a devoted father to his son Donald.
Our thoughts at this difficult time are with all his family and friends.