In an article for The Guardian, Norman Lamb has announced he is not in the running to be the next Liberal Democrat leader. Europe, not surprisingly, features heavily in his comments:
I have just fought a gruelling campaign to win my North Norfolk seat. Attempting to win a seat for the Liberal Democrats in an area that voted quite heavily to leave the EU was bound to be a challenge. Not only was the party’s position on Brexit toxic to many erstwhile Liberal Democrat voters in North Norfolk, but I found myself sympathising with those who felt that the party was not listening to them and was treating them with some disdain.
I abstained on article 50 because I felt it was wrong in principle to vote against, given that we had all voted to hold the referendum in the first place. For many in the party that abstention was an act of betrayal.
And yet, as I pointed out earlier in the week, since Tim Farron’s resignation Norman Lamb has been tweeting his support of the party’s position of calling for a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal.
Given his public backing of this position, and his popularity with party members as shown in my leadership survey, I think there would have been a path to take on Europe that would have worked in a leadership contest and then as leader of the party for Norman Lamb. If, that is, he really wanted it. Which reminds me of how little at times he seemed to be enjoying the previous Liberal Democrat leadership contest. Perhaps I’m reading too much into that, but that also makes it really good news to see the passion Norman Lamb still has for campaigning in other ways:
I want the Liberal Democrats to use our potentially pivotal position in parliament to force cross-party working on the profound challenges we face: not just the Brexit negotiations, but how we secure the future of the NHS and our care system.
In my work as a health minister in the coalition, I became more and more outraged by the way people with mental ill health and those with learning disability and autism are treated by the state. So often I heard stories of people being ignored, not listened to. The dad of a patient at Winterbourne View (the care home where abuse of residents was exposed by Panorama), who told me he felt guilty because there was nothing he could do for his son: no one would listen to his complaints. The teenage girl with autism held in an institution for over two years, treated like an animal. No one would listen to her family’s pleas. I helped get her out and she now leads a good life – but one minister can’t intervene in every case.
And now we have the horror of Grenfell Tower. Again a story of people being ignored, treated as second-class citizens. These aren’t isolated exceptions to the rule. Powerlessness is rife in Britain today, along with obscene inequalities of wealth.
Well, we cannot tolerate this any longer.
Whether it is tenants in tower blocks; people with learning disabilities; workers with no stake in an enterprise watching as the owners of capital take an ever growing percentage of our national income, and their own wages fall; the citizen who feels powerless against remote power, whether at the town hall, Westminster or Brussels – these are the things that drive me on, keep me fighting for justice.
Meanwhile, in the Lib Dem leadership contest there is yet to be firm news from Ed Davey about whether or not he will run. I’d very firmly bet on him running.
Although Vince Cable would start the favourite in a Cable vs Davey contest, it’s worth remembering that the favourite in the last three Liberal Democrat leadership contests has lost ground heavily during the contest and won by a much smaller margin than initially predicted. Would this be a fourth occasion of the favourite slipping back and perhaps this time by enough to actually lose? Interesting times.