Will Hughes and Oaten risk being humiliated?

Will Hughes and Oaten risk being humiliated?

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    Revised YouGov figures reinforce their dilemma

With Charles Kennedy calling for a contest to decide his replacement the party President, Simon Hughes, and the party’s Home Affairs spokesman, Mark Oaten have yet to say whether they want to fight Menzies Campell to join David Cameron and Tony Blair in the line line-up of main party leaders.

With the best price available on Menzies Campbell being just 0.53/1 punters have made the 64 year old Edinburgh lawyer a strong favourite. His chances of being returned in a “Coronation” without a challenger, however, might have been hindered by Kennedy’s call and the suggestions that “Ming the Merciless” was the plotter who brought the leader down.

But who will stand compete against him? Will Hughes and/or Oaten take the plunge or will they stand aside making statesman-like comments about the need for a quick resolution of the leadership issue following the Kennedy departure?

    What must be weighing heavily on their minds are the poll findings that show that neither has an earthly against Campbell in a ballot of the membership. For today’s revised figures have Campbell 49%; Hughes 21%; Oaten 13%

True – the YouGov sample of 280 was small but the pollster has an unblemished record in carrying out party member polls ahead of membership ballots. It is also hard to argue that Oaten and Hughes have much less name recognition than Campbell. The only possible view of the data is that they have no chance at all. And why go should they through all the hassle of a campaign when the outcome looks a foregone conclusion?

Oaten might calculate that he might pick up more than 13% if the smearing of Campbell affects the acting leader’s standing amongst activists but a poor result would make it hard for him to challenge again in the future. He must have a residual worry that if he stood aside then another younger ambitious MP might emerge. The eager publicity-seeker, Lembit Opik, for instance, could put his hat into the ring saying he was doing so just to have a contest.

A Daily Telegraph survey of 44 of the party’s 62 MPs showed that Campbell had 22 backers with Hughes having four and with Oaten only two. Campbell’s supporters include Vince Cable, Ed Davey, David Laws, David Steel, the former leader, and Lady Williams.

TONY BANKS. I would like to record my sadness at the death of Tony Banks. Nearly thirty years ago I was the member for Radio and TV journalists on the executive of the NUJ while Tony was an officer with the Association of Broadcasting Staffs. We had close and enjoyable dealings over several years. He always had such a sense of fun and could quickly defuse any difficult situation. Everybody who dealt with him will have their own story like his speech at a dinner when I stepped down from the union. He said of me in a phrase I still chuckle over:- “Mike looks at a table of statistics like a potter looks at clay”. My condolences to his family.

Mike Smithson

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