Politics isn’t an individual pursuit. It’s a team effort. That’s why choosing the best person to fill a vacancy isn’t just about the individual, it’s also about the rest of the team and who will best compliment others to produce the overall strongest team.
Obvious perhaps, but there’s the comment so often heard in the Liberal Democrats that filling posts ‘should be just about who the best person for the job is’. True – but usually said in a way that misses the wider point, in that you can only decide who the best person for the job is in the context of who else already has other jobs. (On which, see my argument in more detail here.)
Hence the male dominance of senior UK-wide posts in the Liberal Democrats – party leader, every Cabinet minister, party president and Chief Executive in particular – means that having an effective female Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons, to give the post its full name, is the smart move. If there were no competent female possible candidates, then of course that trumps this issue. But there are.
Who is the ideal candidate?
Someone who isn’t in a paid government post – as the role is most effectively done when the person has the freedom to act as a bridge between the party in government and the party outside.
Someone with an established history as a team player in the Parliamentary Party, not as a loner.
Someone with a track record of bringing Lib Dem Parliamentarians together with their approach to politics, not driving them apart.
Who best fits the bill? Lorely Burt, previously a successful – and first female – chair of the Parliamentary Party.
(A couple of years ago, I would have suggested Annette Brooke, one of the great under-rated stars of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party. However, with her standing down at the next election due in part to health issues, I fear the world has moved on.)
The mechanics of the election are pretty straight-forward:
- Any Liberal Democrat MP can stand
- They need five nominations to stand and MPs can only nominate one candidate
- The election is by AV and secret ballot
- The electorate is all Liberal Democrat MPs