The promise and the peril of not being a one-man band

Ever since the Liberal Democrats were founded, we’ve had the sight of the national media only being interested at most in one figure – the party’s leader – yet also running regular reports about how the party is a one-man band. Cause and effect anyone?

With the rise of Vince Cable to public prominence – and popularity – the party now faces a different challenge: how best to turn the team of Clegg and Cable into votes for the party.

The idea of running tickets in election campaigns is nothing new – Mayor and Deputy Mayor, President and Vice President, and so on. It is not an easy trick to get right, especially in these instant media days where the merest hint of disagreement between the duo becomes stories of chaos, catastrophe and calamity.

Picking your words with care, consistently and without thereby lapsing into simply mouthing vacuous statements, is a darn hard act. Credit is certainly due to Chris Huhne for managing that since the leadership election as, particularly in the months immediately after it, the media would have been only too happy to big up any hint of a difference between him and Nick Clegg.

Now Nick Clegg and Vince Cable face that same challenge: how to talk regularly and interestingly in the media whilst remaining closely in step all the time. The prize for getting it right is great. But the alternative would be a descent into the failures of the David Owen / David Steel dual leadership of the Alliance. 1987 reprised? No thanks.

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