Liberal Democrat Leadership Election
Somewhat surprisingly and in a rather rushed manner there is about to be another election for the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party.
I have always said that it is a job that I was interested in doing at some stage.
I am currently in the process of taking soundings as to whether or not I should stand. There are quite a few people in Birmingham who are quite enthusiastic about that idea.
My view is that Charles Kennedy's bravery in accepting publicly that he has a problem with alcohol should be recognised as a courageous step that in no way prevents him being a good party leader.
Winston Churchill was known to be drunk on many occasions, but people recognise his merits as a leader.
It is also only fair to recognise that if someone denies to themselves that they have a problem then it is not dishonest if they deny that to someone else.
60 Lib Dem MPs signed the nomination papers for Charles Kennedy last May. One didn't. That was me.
The reason I did not sign the nomination papers was that I was not happy with the way in which the party was being run.
I have 21 years experience in the private sector. That involves working in a professional manner and most importantly communicating.
The party needs an election where the membership decide who the leader is.
If I stand, and I have not yet taken a final decision, I will be standing on the platform of improving communication within the party.
One of the reasons I have not commented publicly much over the past few weeks is that I feel that such communications should happen in private. Good private communication would not result in intemperate public spats.
The party in recent years has not communicated well.
Party policy is determined by the party as a whole. The party has a process called "Meeting the Challenge" going on at the moment to review policy. Electing me as leader would not be about a wholesale shift in policy. Yes it is true that I do not think the way forward is to join Tony Blair and David Cameron in undermining democratic accountability. Instead I would wish to see improvements to democratic accountability. In particular I would wish to make it easier to sack senior managers in the public sector to stop them empire building. That would make the system far more democratically accountable.
However, policy is to be determined by the Meeting the Challenge approach.
I shall continue a process of sounding out opinion within and outside the party and make an announcement in the near future.
Incidentally the odds on me winning have shortened in the past 2 days from 28/1 to 20/1 (see link). I am now the 7th favourite other than Charles Kennedy.
Let me make it entirely clear, however. If Charles Kennedy wins the leadership election then I will work with him if he asks me to. If, however, I win the Leadership election (whether or not Charles Pulls out), I will invite him to join my Shadow Cabinet.
Charles has taken the party forward over the period of his leadership. The events of recent weeks have been very sad and do not reflect well on the judgment of those people involved. A fair and calm leadership contest based upon the issues not the personalities can bring the party back together.