Some good news for Norman Lamb’s campaign after the various media endorsements for Tim Farron: Lamb has secured the backing of The Economist, in a piece likely to cause multiple eyebrow raising on many fronts from many Liberal Democrats…
Mr Farron is not proving the shoe-in that many had anticipated. If he is a traditional social democrat concerned primarily with equality, Mr Lamb is a classical liberal who has focused his campaign on personal freedoms: championing drug decriminalisation and attacking government plans to prohibit legal highs, for example. He also warns against “simply opposing” reductions in welfare spending. With others, in 2013 he broke from the knee-jerk opposition to military deployment that had characterised Lib Dem foreign policy in the recent past by voting for intervention against Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. In a party whose centre of gravity is shifting towards the political centre (of the almost 20,000 members who have joined since the election, most approve of its governing record), such stances play well. Mr Lamb has gained momentum and high-profile endorsements.
That is good. It is easy to imagine the charismatic and likeable Mr Farron rebuilding the party over the coming years. Yet the result would probably be a more hand-wringing version of the Labour Party. Of the two candidates, the drier Mr Lamb looks the more likely to raise from the ruins of the Lib Dems’ defeat a distinctive force capable of pulling British politics in a liberal direction. He is the sober choice for a punch-drunk party.
As for that shoe-in or not question, I’ll be publishing the results of my survey of party members on the leadership race in Liberal Democrat Newswire on Monday. Click the link below to sign up and make sure you’re one of the first to see the results.