With ballot papers starting to arrive with Liberal Democrat members from today, the last 36 hours has seen a flurry of extra endorsements for Tim Farron or Norman Lamb.
Lamb landed the biggest name of the batch: Paddy Ashdown. Massively popular in the party, Paddy’s appointment as chair of the party’s general election campaign rather embarrassingly got by far more applause than any of the policy measures Nick Clegg talked about in his conference speech announcing it.
Given the general election result, some of the star power has now waned, but it is still considerable with Paddy having long since put behind him the past controversies over dalliance with merger with Labour or, for those with very long memories, privatising public services (who remembers Roger Liddle and that policy paper?). Paddy’s backing gives Lamb’s campaign some much needed momentum.
By far the most interesting of the latest endorsements, however, is – no, not that one – that of Stephen Lloyd, who has backed Tim Farron, bringing his tally of (ex)MPs to 25, drawing level finally with Norman Lamb.
That’s because Stephen Lloyd is the Orange Bookers’ Orange Booker. He’s a Liberal Democrat through and through, but has often expressed support for Orange Book type views (in as much as that label is helpful) far more stridently than colleagues such as David Laws or even Jeremy Browne. You might therefore have expected him to back Norman Lamb.
So his backing for Farron is both good for Farron’s campaign – and also a hopeful sign for the party too that the contest is, despite its moments of stress, not descending into deeply ingrained factionalism.