JACKY ASHLEY WARNING: I am not a member of what Jackie Ashley in the Guardian regards as the time-served officially recognised commentariat and any views on political outcomes contained herein should be treated accordingly.
Are the markets over-rating Hughes?
A challenging factor for the growing number of punters on the Lib Dem race is that the only hard information we have is the YouGov poll that was published in the Daily Telegraph a few hours before Charles Kennedy made his dramatic announcement. The survey had been carried out amongst Lib Dem while the bulletins and headlines were dominated by speculation about the former leader’s future.
Ming’s 49%, it might be argued, was a desire for some stability in all the turbulence. If a new survey was carried out today the figures would be different and, in any case, we have seen the emergence of a fourth contestant, Chris Huhne.
Since then there has been a move to Simon Hughes in the betting after Campbell suffered from reaction to his debut at Prime Minister’s Questions.
But looking again at the poll and the voting system that the Lib Dems operate I do not think that Hughes will make it. For with the alternative vote methodology Hughes will find it hard getting the second and third place preferences that could push him to victory in the final count.
For a variety of reasons, and this showed up in his 21% YouGov showing, there are too many in the party who will vote “anybody but Hughes”.
A lot is being made of his overwhelming victory in the ballot a couple of years ago for the party presidency. But this is really a “nothing job” and his sole opponent was Lembit Opik.
Chris Huhne, the former MEP who only got into the Commons last May, is almost unknown to large parts of the membership and is benefiting enormously from the exposure of the campaign. A point worth noting is that the Euro region that he used to represent contains one fifth of the entire membership of the party.
A threat to all the contestants is a challenge from the other former MEP, Nick Clegg. But the Sheffield Hallam MP’s article in the Independent a week ago today makes it very difficult for him to enter the race while Ming is still there. This appeared under the heading “We need a leader with experience, not youth. This would be the wrong time for the party to skip a generation”.
I think that Ming is still favourite but Huhne could surprise us.
“.. an influential political commentator” – Jackie Ashley, the Guardian