Over the weekend I started up a ‘draft Mike Tuffrey’ page on Facebook to encourage Mike Tuffrey, one of our London Assembly members, to put his name forward as our candidate for the 2012 Mayor elections.
Imagining your fantasy perfect candidate is always fun (a cross between Paddy Ashdown and Shirley Williams perhaps?) but as the actual selection is nearing for its second attempt, I’m not won over by the likely choices on offer – and I think Mike has an awful lot to contribute.
Why Mike Tuffrey
As a long-standing member of the London Assembly, and the leader of our group 2006-2010, he’s got a huge knowledge of London’s issues and the track record in power of both Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson. He’s also regularly gone toe-to-toe with them at events such as Mayor’s Questions at City Hall – and frequently come out on top. He’s also consistently shown a passion for environmental issues which are crucial for London and important to so many Liberal Democrats.
Moreover, one of the most important contributions our Mayor candidate can make is to lead the drive to get as many list candidates elected to the London Assembly as possible. The pressures on a Mayor candidate can – as I’ve seen up close in the three previous contests – make it extremely difficult for them to do keep that in mind. Mike Tuffrey’s background as an Assembly member would make it not only much easier for him to do that – but makes for an extremely plausible public pitch as to why he’d be talking about the importance of electing Liberal Democrats to the Assembly.
I said that I’m not won over by the likely choices on offer, so inevitably that means having reasons for preferring Mike to the other two names recently mentioned, Dominic Carman and Lembit Opik.
I really rate Dominic, and it was a pleasure to help with the artwork for his general election campaign in Barking. Being our candidate in Barnsley also was a service to the party for which he deserves many thanks.
I hope I’ll have the chance to help Dominic again on other elections in the future, but for this one I think Mike’s experience of London government and his role as an Assembly member gives him a strong advantage when you compare their CVs. Dominic himself a few hours ago decided to pull out from the race saying,
Given other commitments, I have reached the conclusion that I cannot financially afford to run an effective campaign as the Lib Dem candidate for Mayor. Regrettably, I will therefore not be putting my name forward when the selection procedure formally restarts in May. Having spoken to Mike Tuffrey and others yesterday, I am convinced that he will make an excellent candidate and I will be giving him my support in whatever way I can, should he decide to run, which I sincerely hope he does.
As for Lembit… there are plenty of views expressed about him, but I’ll add just two that matter particularly to me. I have happy memories of the support Lembit gave me as a new activist in the party, and in fact he arranged the very first TV interview I did. So when he talked about wanting to stand, I had an open mind – wanting to see if he would really put in the work around London to show that he has a hunger for the job, that he would be a hard-working candidate and to demonstrate with his personal commitment that the criticisms of him were misplaced.
But, but, but. I’ve on average spoken at a local Liberal Democrat event in London about once a fortnight since the general election, and as a result have chatted to many members across the capital and seen many lists advertising forthcoming events in different local parties. And the truth is that compared to the level of activity that someone working hard to win a selection could be putting in or someone who wants to show that he’s committed and working hard for a particular cause, Lembit’s been nearly invisible. The delay in running the selection for Mayor has even given Lembit a few extra months to put arguments against him to rest, but he hasn’t been making good use of that time.
My second reason for doubts is his voting record as an MP – in 2009 he was the only Lib Dem MP to vote against a measure to tighten up MPs’ expenses (requiring receipts for all expense claims), the only one to vote to keep the second homes allowance for outer London MPs and was also one of only four to oppose a tightening of the rules on declaring outside interests.
Lembit was also one of only three Lib Dem MPs to vote against the options for having a 100% elected House of Lords or an 80% elected one or a 60% elected one, and to vote in favour of the option for a 100% appointed one.
Iconoclasm and going against the prevailing trends is often welcome. But on expenses and Parliamentary reform, despite his libertarian rhetoric, Lembit has put himself on the deeply traditional side of the fence too often for my liking.
So those are the reasons why overall Mike Tuffrey would be by far the best candidate of the three. Mike would be a great candidate both in his own right and when compared with the likely alternative.