Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Leader Who Will Listen

The Liberal Democrats are a democratic political party. It is our party conference that decides policy and each member of the party has an equal say in the leader of our party. Therefore the views of the membership are not something to be taken lightly.

The members of the party want as much information about the leadership candidates as possible before making up their mind. Not every member attends conference and therefore has like me seen each of the candidates in action on a number of occasions up close. Not every member has worked in a target seat and two by-elections in recent history to see the attitudes of the candidates when the party is doing all it can to win seats.

Therefore hustings are an important way for many ordinary members of the party to gauge which leader is right for the party. Many hustings events are springing up all over the country but not all are gathering all three candidates to give the attendees a balanced view. Also not all members are able to reach one of the hustings events either due to distance or possibly due to prior engagements.

Simon Hughes has promised to attend as many of the hustings meetings as possible in the coming weeks and already shown that this is what he is going to do. He has also set up an e-hustings on his website where members can ask him questions. Simon is only candidate to use the Internet in this way, allowing the every day folk to get the answers to their questions.

I wrote earlier last month that the reason I finally realised that Charles Kennedy could no longer sustain his leadership was that while he had support in the country he had lost the support of his fellow MPs. Sir Menzies Campbell is starting to have the adverse situation, a lot of the young MPs have signed up to his campaign yet Ming is not attending far more of the hustings events than other candidates. The party needs someone that they know cares for them by not giving them a chance to see you without just cause they feel remote.

I've said all along that the number one reason I am backing Simon Hughes for leader is that he is best able to lead the party as a whole and be the greatest electoral asset at the next and subsequent elections or those standing. His attitude to the party and his willingness to engage with us shows that he really is the only choice that the party can make.

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