I notice a posting on Lib Dem Aggregated blogs warning us that with all the interest in the leadership election, our blogs are reaching a wider readership, including the media and political opponents.
Oh bugger! I can't be seen in public looking like this. Hang on while I put a tie on and scrape the tweak strands over the bald pate.
For those 'outsiders' who are researching party members’ views on the leadership election, this blog is all you really need to read. This is because I have an unerring knack of backing losing candidates. Whichever candidate I decide to make my last preference is pretty much bound to win. Just follow the postings here over the next couple of weeks and you will know in advance who will win.
Just look at my track record. In the 1999 leadership contest I voted for Malcolm Bruce for reasons I can’t quite now remember. I think he seemed less pro-project than Kennedy (possibly not my best call) and better organised than Simon. He may have been doing a good job as treasury spokesman too, but it's all a bit of a haze really.
I was one of the few people to vote for Beith over Ashdown in 1988. I remember this election much more clearly than ’99. Paddy gave the impression that he supported a kind of ‘Year Zero’ approach, dropping the word Liberal from the party’s title and wanting us to stop talking about our Liberal heritage. There was also the sinister way in which the same advisors who had poisoned Steel’s relationship with party workers seamlessly transferred themselves to Ashdown’s side.
I was only 10 years old at the time of the Steel v Pardoe contest in 1976 and unaware that it was taking place. But I just know that John Pardoe would have got my vote if I had been old enough and a party member. Pardoe was combative, proud and confident in his Liberal values and sceptical about alliances with the right of the Labour Party. In many ways, he was all I could have hoped for in a Liberal leader. He lost the leadership election by a remarkably wide margin, his seat at the subsequent general election and his political career was over at the age of 45.
In 1967, I was unable even to say the word Liberal let alone have a view on who should succeed Jo Grimond. This was the last time that the MPs alone chose the leader. I am not sure who I would have preferred. Eric Lubbock was a bit eccentric and Emlyn Hooson rather right-wing. But I like to think I would have spotted Jeremy Thorpe as one to avoid. He first permeated my consciousness during the 1974 general election, when I was prone to interrupting my parents' watching the TV news to ask 'Who's that?' about whoever was on screen at the time. With his trilby hats and angular face, Thorpe seemed to me then rather sinister and a bit scary. Nothing that happened subsequently caused me to revise this opinion.
For much of the twentieth century there were no leadership contests, often because the party had too few MPs for there to be more than one credible candidate. Going back further, to 1894, I would have undoubtedly supported the Little Englander Sir William Harcourt (who lost) over the imperialist Lord Rosebery (who won). But I suspect I would have preferred the Marquess of Hartington to W.E. ‘Education Act’ Forster in 1875, thus spoiling a perfect record of backing losers. But even then I would have liked to have seen their magic lantern presentations before reaching my final decision.
Coming back to the present day, as soon as Kennedy resigned I posted here that I would support Ming. No sooner had I done this than demands arose to avoid a ‘coronation’. Then alternative candidates emerged. Then Ming made a mess of prime minister’s question time, then his presentation as the weekend was said to be lacklustre and Simon overtook him as the bookies' favourite.
This leaves me with a dilemma. I still support Ming. But, given my track record, I fear the best way to show this support would be to start noisily praising each of the other candidates in turn.