Lynne Featherstone

MP for Hornsey and Wood Green

my blog
Lynne's Parliament and Haringey Diary, established 2003

Update on Lib Dem leadership

Once I heard Charles’s statement on Thursday – as I said yesterday – it became clear to me that I could no longer continue my support for him to remain as leader. The hardest thing is trying to make your own mind up – to get your own thinking straight. For me, as a Charles loyalist, once my gut feelings told me that his position was untenable and that his ‘statement’ made with a gun to his head of exposure was calculated – it all got much easier.

Ed Davey had rung me around 8.45am yesterday morning to ask if I would be willing to be a signatory to the ‘statement’ by MPs and be willing to resign my front bench position unless Charles himself stepped down. I said in principle – yes – but that I would ring back later in the day. However, as soon as I put the phone down I rang Ed back immediately because I had made up my mind, and there was no point in buggering around so told him that he could count me in. At that stage there were not many yet signed up – so there was some angst as the day wore on as to whether there would be enough of us to force the issue. I spoke to Ed several times during the day as the numbers climbed ever upwards.

Of course, the phone did not stop going all yesterday or today with various media hounds after their stories. I decided that I would not go on television or radio to comment before Charles resigns. My hope is that he goes gracefully before Monday. I do not want to see him damage himself or the party further. Charles – according to the media – still believes that the wider party supports him staying and that he would therefore win a leadership contest. That support appears to ebbing away. Certainly following the statement I put on my blog yesterday (and emailed out to local members and helpers) – responses on the position I have taken are running at around 90% in agreement.

This is all very painful and uncomfortable – but I am now quite heartened by the feeling that at last the dynamic (or lack of it) that I have witnessed at Parliament will be banished. I have to say that I have been quite shocked by what I found going on at Parliament. Like the wider membership – at first I had no real idea of what the problem was. But what I found was a pretty dysfunctional Parliamentary Party, held in a limbo because of what is now clear – a lack of strategic direction from the leadership. Underwhelmed as I was by the early briefings to the media which I felt were disloyal – I have come to understand that Charles had been given every opportunity to improve performance and that a refusal to give that direction was compounding the challenges we already have to move ahead for the political life ahead.

And make no mistake – political life will move on very swiftly. Today – there will be announcements I am sure – and tomorrow – and Monday. Then we will see Charles go, hats in the ring and the political landscape shifts again. And if that happens I hope that, relieved of the burdens of leadership, Charles and his family will be able to put their lives back together again. He certainly deserves that after all the good he has done for our party.

Sat 7 January 2006
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