Winners and losers

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006

With the result of the leadership election just hours away, it's time to look at the winners and losers from the campaign.

Winners

Chris Huhne
Transforming himself from Who-ne? to the Huhnami, the Eastleigh MP won the campaign even if he doesn't turn out to have won the leadership. Where he was once just one among many talented new MPs, he's now leapfrogged his rivals in the most dramatic style. And the national exposure won't have done his wafer-thin constituency majority any harm, either.
Jo Swinson
The baby of the House has been one of the more visible faces of both the Ming Campbell and Reflecting Britain campaigns. Possibly not the most obvious choice to become the highest-profile young MP, she has nevertheless looked comfortable in the spotlight and performed well.
Charles Kennedy
We didn't know how much we loved him until we didn't have him any more. Kennedy's involuntary defenestration was emphatically not the party's finest hour, but the man himself has come out of it smelling of roses (and with a lot less weight to carry on his shoulders). His Dunfermline walkabout was the stuff of legends. Which brings us to:
Willie Rennie
It really doesn't matter what the man does with the rest of his life, wherever two or three Liberal Democrats are gathered together, he will be forever acclaimed a hero. He could be caught buggering one of the Queen's corgis and it wouldn't make any difference – he stopped the party from sliding into derision and irrelevance, and nobody will ever forget it.
Martin Tod
Much of Ming Campbell's campaign was dire, but its use of the internet was enviable – and that was down to Tod. There was nothing wrong with Huhne's web work, nor Hughes's once he ditched that dreadful Flash site, but Ming's was a cut above in slickness and innovativeness, and made the rest of the party look good by association.
Lynne Featherstone
Those of us who remember her as the leader of a freshly-minted three-strong Lib Dem council group will not be remotely surprised if her determination eventually hands her the keys to Downing Street. Until that day comes, her effectiveness as Chris Huhne's number one supporter – half pom-pommed cheerleader, half bowler-hatted Odd Job – should ensure a higher profile front bench job whoever wins.
Alex Wilcock
A very great many words were expended fighting this campaign in blogs, with some consistently excellent writers at work (and kudos to Ryan Cullen for gathering them all together on Lib Dem Blogs). And then Alex quietly appeared with a blog that he swore was as much about Dr Who and his partner as it was about politics, and blew everyone else away. His three posts on the leadership contenders would make forests weep for the trees sacrificed to provide the newsprint wasted on 'professional' analysis that wasn't a quarter as well-argued or persuasive.
John Hemming
When the millionaire MP started publicly toying with the idea of standing for the leadership the howls of laughter were deafening. But then a funny thing happened – others began to leap into the water revealed by Hemming's decision to break the ice and the man himself tactfully withdrew, leaving him looking like a far-sighted trailblazer. He followed it up with what was generally considered to be a successful podcast with the influential but scurrilous bloggers Guido Fawkes and Recess Monkey, who were presumably planning on kippering him but who seem to have ended up quite liking him.

Losers

Mark Oaten
Forget the scandal – Oaten's campaign was already over before the story of the male prostitute broke. It's difficult not to feel sorry for the almost Shakespearian destruction of his hopes, ambitions and life, and impossible not to admire his return to the House of Commons to help defeat the government by one vote. But, essentially, before the leadership election Oaten was being talked about by some as the future of the party – and by the time the News of the World mugged him he was already history.
Ming Campbell
He may win the leadership (with the help of my vote) but he lost the campaign. On the defensive from the start, he had no answer to the Huhne Army's attack: as the front runner and the possessor of the greatest reputation for leadership in the party, the only way to go was down – but many were disappointed by how quickly he descended.
Lembit Öpik
Since he was a student activist, Lembit's reputation among those who have given him a fair hearing has been that of an effective achiever who uses humour to surprising effect, and is frequently underestimated because of it. However, his dogged defence of Kennedy and Oaten – beyond the point when any other man would have folded his tent and melted silently into the night – has expended most of his hard-earned political capital. Most of the reputation for success has evaporated, leaving only the reputation for silliness.
Nick Clegg
The Sheffield Hallam MP is fast becoming the Lib Dems' Portillo – charming, talented, but lacking the instinct for the right moment to strike. Why didn't he run for leader? There are many possible answers, but few reflect well on him, given Chris Huhne's bravery and success in seizing the moment.
The Daily Telegraph
“Scandal-hit Lib Dems in freefall” my foot! Dishonourable mention goes to Simon Jenkins in The Times for “Kennedy may be finished – but so is his absurd, irrelevant party”.
Sarah Teather
The Kennedy Assassination was not popular, but in my conversations with activists no-one has been more personally blamed than the Brent East MP – perhaps because everyone knows that Kennedy practically took up residence in her constituency to get her elected in the first place.
Ben Ramm
Oscar Wilde once said it is better to be notorious than to be unknown. Ramm, the editor of a magazine that no-one had ever heard of and which appears to never be published, proved it is possible to be both similtaneously.
Daisy McAndrew
Did she shaft her former boss at the behest of secret plotters, or did she just do her job as a political correspondent? Her failure to mention her prior connections when reporting the story of Kennedy's drinking was a clear failure of journalistic ethics – and whichever is true, a lot of people will be talking a lot more carefully in her presence in future.

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I'm Andy Darley. Sometimes I want to say things. This is where I do it.