X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Please note: Previously subscribers used a 'WebID' to log into the website. Your subscriber number is not the same as the WebID. Please ensure you use the subscriber number when you link your subscription.

Coffee House

The runners and riders for deputy leader of the Lib Dems

20 December 2013

12:50 PM

20 December 2013

12:50 PM

The election of the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party is hardly hold the front page stuff. However, whoever wins the contest, triggered this week by Simon Hughes’ surprise elevation to ministerial office, will give us a good indication as to where the party currently sees itself.

The election is decided by a vote of Lib Dem MPs, as that is who the deputy leader is there to represent, and can only be contested by those who are not ministers. Coaltion has forced the Lib Dems to look at where they stand ideologically, and who the MPs select as their deputy leader will give a strong indication of their ‘spiritual’ positioning.

A left-wing candidate would show a determination of the party to keep themselves within touching distance of Labour. A win for a more Orange Book candidate, like Jeremy Browne, would certainly be a major victory for that wing of the party, solidifying their position at the top of the Lib Dems.

Disappointingly the Speccie’s Steerpike has revealed a lack of support for Browne, who is my preferred candidate. There are other former ministers very much in the reckoning though, particularly Sir Nick Harvey and Mike Moore.

[Alt-Text]


Harvey, a strong runner in this contest, was said to have turned downed a return to government as the party’s chief whip at the last reshuffle, on the grounds that he did not want to lose his public voice. The deputy leadership would certainly give him that.

Moore is popular among colleagues, and team Clegg. Many felt he was harshly treated when he was a surprise cabinet casualty, sacked as Scottish Secretary, and so I’m sure he could drum up support if he wanted it.

As well as ideological issues to settle, the Lib Dems are still trying to get more women into prominent roles. A senior Lib Dem source tells me that there is a ‘strong case for a woman’ to take the role, and others agree. The options here are, depressingly, rather limited. Jo Swinson is a minister, and is being covered on maternity leave by Jenny Willott, counting them both out.

The women MPs who are out office are Tessa Munt, Annette Brooke and Sarah Teather, and Lorely Burt. Brooke is standing down at the next election, and Teather is unpopular and isolated amongst parliamentary colleagues, leaving Munt and Burt as the outstanding candidates.

While Munt has avoided placing herself too keenly in one wing of the Lib Dems, she would probably keep social liberals happy while not offending the orange bookers too greatly. However, she is currently PPS to Vince Cable, and that’s a key factor against her.

This election is massively about the internal politics of the Lib Dems. As another well placed source put it, it’s ‘about the politics of the big four or five,’ and why would Clegg’s team allow someone close to Cable into the role, when they’ve “spent 18 months putting him in his box”? Given that the winner is also likely to be able to make a strong bid for the leadership next time around ‘if you’re Danny [Alexander], do you put in someone good?’

Lorely Burt is good, and has already chaired the parliamentary party. She has a wafer thin majority, and the extra profile and space to criticise the Conservatives the role would provide may well help her election campaign. ‘If I was putting money on, I’d put it on Lorely’ says my source. Indeed, they believe that she will be ‘proposed and seconded by some very important people’.

As is so often the case with seemingly insignificant skirmishes, the Lib Dem deputy leadership contest is a proxy for ongoing clashes amongst bigger beasts.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close