Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Government defeat

One of the exciting things about this parliament is that a Government defeat is much more likely. Tonight we were voting on the Lords amendments to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill and a combination of opposition MPs and Labour rebels meant that one of the Government's dafter ideas was held well and truly in check.

The second vote was won by a majority of one so it's a good thing that the Member for Winchester turned up and voted appropriately.

Members of the public may find it hard to believe but the House of Commons can be an incredibly supportive place at times of personal crisis. The support is cross party and can come from surprising quarters. So, it was particularly gratifying to see senior Tories approaching Mark in a supportive manner. Before anyone says anything there may well have been similar gestures from Labour MPs - it's just that I didn't spot them!

Monday, January 16, 2006

New Year

I made a New Years resolution to resume the blog but to be honest the beginning of the year was depressing. I just couldn't bring myself to comment daily on the unfolding story of Charles Kennedy.

Some of you may now be sniggering into your cornflakes recalling that I publicly called for Charles to go and was one of the signatories on the various letters that were sent to Charles. All I am going to say is that I did believe that my actions were in the best interests of the party and I do wish Charles health and strength over the forthcoming weeks.

But, as Harold Wilson said, "A week is a long time in politics" and after a fairly emotional week I am now feeling extremely optimistic for the future of our party.

We now have a leadership contest and so far four MPs have entered the race. Menzies Campbell, Mark Oaten, Simon Hughes and Chris Huhne.

I am actively supporting Chris Huhne. He adds an interesting dimension to the competition. He is often described as an "orange book economic liberal" Although he wrote a chapter in the orange book this does not give a full flavour of what he is about. He understands economics but that does not necessarily make him an economic liberal. He has a strong social conscience and the very fact that he also understands the economic arguments makes him the ideal person to reconcile some of the different points of view within the party. These are not big differences but it is important that we move forwards with a united front.

I am also pleased to see that Chris has practical ideas to introduce green policies and is committed to public services and localism.

Yesterday many Lib Dems were in London for the "Meeting the Challenge" policy conference. The opening session gave all four leadership contenders a speaking opportunity. After the hustings there was a sense of real excitement among the delegates and a lot of optimism for the future.