Earlier this week LibDem Party President Simon Hughes said the party would be casting “the net far and wide in our search for a candidate to represent our diverse capital” and promised that “people from ethnic minority communities, women and non-politicos will be at the forefront of our selection process”.
Given my previously expressed belief that all parties need to start looking to the Assembly for potential Mayors this is a real shame but is perhaps an honest reflection of the party’s position.
As a LibDem party member it saddens me that we have such an unrepresentative slate of Assembly Members (yes, I’m still on that hobby horse) and that we’ve lost probably our brightest star, Lynne Featherstone, to Parliament.
I have no doubt that all the LibDem AMs are hard working and dedicated but it’s hard to imagine many of the current slate moving on to the top job – the most credible candidate would be Mike Tuffrey who previously served on the GLC representing Vauxhall.
The biggest problem seems to be that LibDem party members have failed to consider the long term implications of their votes when it comes to selecting members for the London List.
Like all activists in all parties they seem in 2004 to have fallen for the idea that they could make big wins in the constituency elections. In truth this was never likely. In both 2000 and 2004 the party failed to win a single constituency seat.
In 2004 LibDem candidates came second in only five seats but, before anyone claims these results put the party on the cusp of gains, it’s worth looking at the results for those constituencies:
Bexley and Bromley
Conservative Party 64,246
Liberal Democrats 29,992
Croydon and Sutton
Conservative Party 52,330
Liberal Democrats 28,636
Lambeth and Southwark
Labour Party 36,280
Liberal Democrats 30,805
Labour Party 37,380
Liberal Democrats 24,042
Conservative Party 48,858
Liberal Democrats 44,791
In all but two seats the gap between the second place LibDem candidate and the victor is measured in double figure thousands.
The best results were secured by Dee Doocey (who was also on the London List which saw her secure a seat on the Assembly) in the South West seat and Caroline Pidgeon in Lambeth and Southwark. By any realistic assessment these are the only two directly elected seats the party has any chance of winning.
If the membership of the party could be convinced to accept this fact they should be encouraged to select list members on the truthful understanding that it is these who are most likely to represent the party for the following four years.
Accordingly it is the bright young things like Pidgeon who should be placed in the top four or five on the London List, virtually ensuring their election and allowing them time to build a Londonwide profile which might, within a term or two, see them become credible candidates for Mayor.
The difficulty is that any attempt by a party leadership to better inform members and shape selections always meets resistance from sections of the membership – witness the hostility towards David Cameron’s A-list.
This is where the current LibDem AMs could play a vital role. Between now and the opening of internal party nominations they should announce that they will not be seeking re-selection and encourage a new generation of London politicians to step forward.