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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 October 2007

Liberal Democrat leadership: Two candidates, one background, no answers

NOW THAT Ming Campbell has bowed to the inevitable, the Lib Dems are gearing themselves up for a leadership election. But the only two candidates to have declared so far, Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg, admit that their "similarities outweigh their differences".

Ken Douglas

They both attended Westminster 'public' school (boarding fee £8,652), one went to Cambridge University, the other to Oxford. They're not alone in this – one third of all MPs and 42% of front-benchers went to fee-paying schools and more than 25% to Oxford or Cambridge, which shows how unrepresentative MPs are and remote from ordinary people (only 7% of all children go to a fee-paying school).

The Sutton Trust, which surveyed MPs' educational backgrounds, concluded that this was indicative of "the educational apartheid that…offers the best life chances to those who can afford to pay for their schooling".

Both Clegg and Huhne contributed to the 'Orange Book', which called for the Lib Dems to adopt a free-market approach to the public sector; in other words cuts and privatisation.

Clegg is 'tough on crime', calling for tougher sentences for serious offenders; Huhne is tough on economics, calling for 'green taxes' to make flying and driving more expensive – measures that would hit working-class people hardest.

Having publicly agreed their lack of differences, and if no other candidates declare themselves, then all that is left will be a two-month beauty contest. Insiders say there is animosity between the two camps but it is "all a matter of demeanour rather than policy".

This shows the homogenisation of British politics – when the main parties' candidates stand for essentially the same policies, the only differences are personal ones. Even their pasts are equally unchequered – although Clegg got community service for burning down two greenhouses containing cacti as a student and Huhne once wrote a paper allegedly advocating the use of LSD.

Clearly, the Lib Dems want a David Cameron of their own to win disaffected conservative voters. But with the main parties all battling for the same piece of centre ground under a first past the post electoral system, the Lib Dems will continue to be squeezed.

This contest is likely to see a neo-liberal elected as leader of the Lib Dems – confirming their move to the right in order to try and capture a section of the Tory vote.

They will offer no alternative for public-sector workers battling below-inflation pay rises, privatisation and casualisation; or for communities fighting attacks on their local hospitals and other services.

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In The Socialist 25 October 2007:

Public health not private wealth

Join the 3 November NHS demonstration

NHS: What the Socialist Party says

March to save the NHS

Michael Moore's latest film 'Sicko' reviewed

Huddersfield SOS: Class fighters' bold initiative


Postal dispute

Reject Royal Mail deal: Vote 'No' and reinstate the action

Striking Liverpool postal workers return to work


Campaign for a New Workers Party

Why workers need a new party

Respect in crisis - what lessons for socialists?


Socialism 2007

Socialism 2007


Socialist Party feature

Pakistan: Suicide bombings at Bhutto rally


International socialist news and analysis

Turkey's invasion threat increases regional instability

Release Saburi Akande Akinola, Taiwo Hassan Soweto and Olatunde Dairo now

France: Biggest public transport strike action since 1995


Socialist Party women

Do women still have the 'right to choose'?


Socialist Party news and analysis

Liberal Democrat leadership: Two candidates, one background, no answers

Classroom assistants challenge the Stormont Assembly

Who's to blame for teenage obesity?


Workplace news and analysis

Glasgow: On strike for a fair deal

Train drivers prepare for action

Fight Cadbury's factory closure

Teachers' union election – time to change!

BBC threatens hundreds of jobs


 

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