The Liberal Democrats have today agreed the timetable to elect the next leader of the party.
Nominations will open on Monday 11 May and close on Thursday 28 May. The ballot (of all members – we’re a democratic party) will then open on Thursday 18 June and close on Wednesday 15 July, after which the party will announce the next leader.
The candidates will by definition be fished from a limited pool. They must be Members of Parliament and must be proposed by at least 10 per cent of other members of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons (that would be a threshold of two out of the current eleven).
Some have already ruled themselves out, or like Tim Farron will not stand again. Three of the eleven are brand new, elected to Parliament for the first time only last month.
Ed Davey, defeated in the last contest by Jo Swinson, is currently acting in the leadership role, and will no doubt throw his hat in the ring again. I voted for him last time, largely because I felt that Jo would face exactly the problems she did indeed face – defending her own marginal seat miles from Westminster, and trying to do so by running effectively a Scottish campaign across the whole of the UK.
(Note 1: that clearly wasn’t the only problem Jo and the party faced last month. The party needs its internal debrief to be firmly honest about the many shortcomings of the Lib Dem General Election campaign last month.)
(Note 2: for what it’s worth as a resident of England, though not born in England, one of the things I never understood about the campaign was why it was absolutely essential to hold a second referendum on membership of the EU while simultaneously absolutely unthinkable to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence. In the changed circumstances we now face, with the assurances about Scotland’s future as part of the UK in the EU given at the last ‘Indyref’ now lying in tatters, it seems to me entirely reasonable to ask the Scots whether they wish to think again, and I have a feeling that ultimately if we’re not careful the Liberal Democrats may find ourselves on the wrong side of history on this one.)
A number of challengers to Ed have been mentioned, all female: three from the ‘class of 2017’ – Layla Moran (Oxford West & Abingdon) most prominently, but also Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) and Wera Hobhouse (Bath) – and newcomer Daisy Cooper (St Albans) elected to Parliament only last month.
The leadership campaign therefore is likely to look like Ed v The Rest on two counts. Gender obviously, but also the choice between someone who was a significant minister in the coalition government of 2010-2015, or a new leader who was not even a member of parliament during those years.
It’s clear that the Johnson government is here for the long haul, and that there is no hope of another party running the country for at least another ten years (my guess is more like fifteen or twenty). Is my previous choice the candidate for that long haul? Or would the party be better placed with a post-coalition leader unencumbered by the past and looking to that long-term future?
At the moment, depending whose names end up on the ballot paper, Ed will need to persuade me not to vote for the connoisseur’s choice, Daisy Cooper. But there will be lots for party members to hear from all the hopefuls in the coming months.