Sunday, 21 October 2007

Identikit candidates in Lib Dem race

The two declared candidates, and likely front runners, in the race for the Liberal Democrat leadership - Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne have a number of remarkable similarities:

* Both went to fee-paying Westminster School
* Both are former MEPs
* Both have wives from elsewhere in the EU
* Both share a relatively liberal economic philosphy

The latter is a problem for both of them, given that Liberal activists who are the electorate tend to lean to the left. In the last leadership campaign, Chris Huhne tried to edge towards the left.

There is, however, one big difference between the candidates that has been little commented on. Chris Huhne has a knife edge majority of 568 in the Hampshire constituency of Eastleigh. Nick Clegg represents the leafy part of Sheffield (Sheffield, Hallam) where he had a majority of 8,682 and over 51 per cent of the vote at the last election. It wouldn't make a lot of sense to go into a general election with the leader having to give much of his attention to holding his own seat, perhaps then to lose it as a hung Parliament gave the Lib Dems a real chance of a share of power.

The telegenic Clegg is the same age as David Cameron and shares a not dissimilar background. But he rejects suggestions that he is 'Cameron lite' and looks like the best bet for the Lib Dems. But a lot could happen between now and December.

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