Mark Oaten MP may have declared his bid for the LibDem leadership but today’s newspapers are doubtful that he has the seven supporter MPs that are required for him to stand. Only Lembit Opik has openly backed him so far although it is rumoured that Charles Kennedy may also be a supporter.
In an article for today’s independent Mr Oaten seeks to outline his worldview by emphasising opposition to the war on Iraq, civil liberties, a multilateralist approach to environmental problems and support for economic ideas like Bank of England independence. Earlier this week he called for people earning £150,000 to pay the LibDems’ 50% top rate of income tax. The current suggestion is that the brain-draining 50% rate would bite at £100,000.
If a very small poll of 104 LibDem activists is to be believed Mr Oaten will struggle to overhaul Ming Campbell’s early standing. The Independent‘s "straw poll of 104 local councillors and parliamentary candidates from across the country found that 45 expressed backing for Sir Menzies, 13 for Simon Hughes and 10 for Mark Oaten."
One of the reasons why Mr Oaten may struggle to win the backing of the seven MPs is that other leading ‘Orange Book modernisers’ such as David Laws and Nick Clegg have already endorsed Mr Campbell. Long odds are not new to him however.
Matthew d’Ancona thinks that Mr Clegg (although only an MP for eight months) is the right choice for the LibDems. Having read Matthew’s article twice I’m not convinced as to why… although Mr Clegg apparently comes over well on a TV with the volume off.
For Mr d’Ancona it is David Cameron’s LibDem offensive which has precipitated the need for a ‘shock therapy’ candidate like Mr Clegg:
"From the start, Mr Cameron has made the destruction of the Lib Dems his mission, striving at every turn to decontaminate the Conservative Party and restore it to the electoral mainstream. When Mr Cameron talks about the environment, global poverty and the public services, it is often assumed he is aping Mr Blair, whereas, more often than not, he is wooing Lib Dem voters. It should terrify the third party that, according to an ICM poll last month, 63 per cent of Liberal Democrats consider Mr Cameron "a potential prime minister". A survey in yesterday’s Times put the third party at 16 per cent, its lowest such poll rating since the 2001 election."
Later today Sir Ming, as acting LibDem leader, will have his first outing at PMQs. Sam Coates, Deputy Editor of ConservativeHome, will be blogging the occasion as the Editor may still be asleep (in Washington DC).