OK, think I’ll stick to something nice and uncontroversial for the next few posts, at least. Just (well, a few hours ago) got back from Cambridge’s very own hustings. All three candidates spoke well, and the most common response from people that I heard was “well I really don’t know that that made the choice any clearer, they’re all quite good”.
However, I will attempt to draw something meaningful from it. Bear in mind that this is likely to be subjective, and affected by my support for Simon Hughes (though whether it would mean I’m kinder or harsher to him, I’m not sure).
Ming was first up for his “10″ minute opening gambit. He stepped up, announced that “I did write a speech, but actually I’m not going to give it. It’s on the website if you want to see it.” An impressive manouvre, especially followed as it was by his stepping out from behind the podium and hence away from microphone assistance. He put quite a lot of passion (or at least that kind of shoutyness that politicians of all hues like to convince us is passion) in, and spoke at quite a high volume, having just made a few rather lame comments/jokes about his voice being bad (mainly targetted at the “I’m an everyman, I’ve been watching SPORTS! and shouting at my TV” agenda). He gave a speech mainly about campaigning, about how he’d fought for his seat, etc, and touching on all the typical things at the moment: localism, no to nuclear, etc.
Huhne was up next. It was immediately noticeable (and bear in mind I’m a student studying Natural Sciences, I have to follow two hours of not always that absorbing lectures a day) that he was holding my attention and, I suspect other people’s, rather less effectively. He gave exactly the sort of speech I would expect from him, good on the content but (particularly after Ming) not so hot on the passion, or the broad vision. Still, many very intelligent things to say on the issues he covered, none of which would surprise you very much, all taken from more of an economic standpoint than the other two.
Hughes finished the opening statements with an equally unsurprising performance, talking about his usual set of issues, being a little bit more social about things than the other two, peppering it with details but also maintaining the thrust of what he was saying. Of course, being Simon, he did that terrible habit he has of trying to tell us in advance how many points he’s about to make, starting of with number 1, and then never really bothering to continue down a list. He always says “finally” about three times in drawing to a close. Having said that, he’s not all that much more waffly than the others, he just draws attention to his waffle more. He closed by making a bid for the “I can attract people from outside as well as sing to the choir” ground.
So far, not all that moved. Campbell made a pretty good and slightly surprising speech, though the spontenaiety of his speech was compromised slightly by his continued occasional glances at the notes he wasn’t speaking from. The other two did very little surprising.
There followed the questions, one about schooling (they all oppose 11+), one about nuclear power (they all dislike it, Huhne because nobody is willing to pay since 3-mile island, etc), one about NHS funding mainly being for staff (they all think we need to cut down agency staff, and Ming perhaps surprisingly drew attention to his recent treatments). Really for the most part you couldn’t find much of a gap between them on policy, other than on Iraq, of course, which Ming didn’t pick nearly as much of an argument about as he did on Question Time.
At the end, a couple of quite nice questions to round off with. What is your one core ideal that needs to be communicated? Huhne: Localism, devolution of power, innovation, etc. Ming: PR, and his spiel about voting down a Queen’s Speech that didn’t include it. Hughes: Both, essentially, phrased as “power to the people”. Which is fair enough, really, I guess. He did also say it partly to pick up on a comment earlier from a questioner who remarked that everyone seemed to believe roughly the same things and she felt she was in the right party.
So essentially, with little to pick between them on policy, I’m left with not a lot to go on other than style. At the end of the day, policy wise, they’ve all got it right, I think.
Ming started with a good speech. But it has to be said that occasionally he makes little slips in sentence construction if he gets carried away (“Britain should be the party of UN authority”?!). To be fair, there seemed to be a lot of little mistakes in speaking from all three, at one point Simon Hughes sounded, for some reason, as if he called Chris Huhne “Christmas Tree”…. Nonetheless, the point remains. Ming gave a distinct impression of slight tiredness, he spent much of the second half sniffling into a hanky. Which is fair enough, but I wonder whether a General Election campaign might not start to get to him too. Of course, he might just genuinely have a cold.
Simon did well, though as always he can’t resist little jokey comments (better than Ming’s, usually) where they might be best not voiced. He seemed to me to have the balance of detail, broad vision and passion about right.
Huhne was great on the detail, but as I mentioned, it is not unfair to say that he is not as engaging a speaker as the other two. He did mention a lot of greenyness, though, which gets him marks from me.
So overall, none of it changed my opinion of Simon Hughes, which is that he’s by far the best of the three, but that he may not be the best at appealing to all possible swing voters. But then, I don’t know who is. Huhne appeals to the people Hughes doesn’t, Ming is quite broad in his appeal but less strongly appealing. None is ideal. At the end of the day, then, I simply want to vote for the one I agree with the most. Which is Simon.
But my question to you (those who’ve held out to the end!) is, which order to put the other two in? I was hoping to find the answer to this question this evening. As it is, I don’t think I’m any the wiser. So come on folks: Why should I vote Ming or Huhne as my second choice? (since presumably, you all think my second vote will end up being important!) I await persuasion…