Wednesday, 29 July 2015

A balanced "shadow cabinet"

It would have been possible to dole out multiple portfolios to the other seven members of the House of Commons, much as David Steel was forced to do when he was leader of a smaller parliamentary Liberal Party. However, Tim Farron in drawing up his list of spokesmen has been able to call upon a wider constituency in not only a much larger Liberal Democrat representation in The Other Place compared with the late 1970s, but also in the devolved parliaments. He has further taken the step of naming people in local government as well as two former MPs, Lynne Featherston and Lorely Burt, unfairly swept away in the rout of May. (But is there a hint of future ermine in those two choices? I hope so.)

This widening of the field of selection has also enabled him to balance his team by gender. In the process, he has avoided creating a "women's issues" ghetto.

However, just as interesting to me is the political balance. It would have been possible to draw his people solely from the "social liberal" area of the party, much as the party in the Commons is now skewed that way. This would have been a mistake in that it would have laid the party open to the sort of "loony leftie" attack which has been launched by the media on Jeremy Corbyn, who looks likely to gain most first preferences in the Labour leadership election. Tim has largely gone for expertise and experience it seems, at the same time producing a balanced team reflecting all shades of political opinion within the Liberal Democrat ambit.

Two questions intrigue me: why is Mark Williams, MP for Ceredigion, not named? Did he, like Nick Clegg, turn down a spokesman slot in order to concentrate on constituency affairs? And who is to be the deputy leader? I note that the top slot in the list is that of economics, occupied by Susan Kramer who is a Londoner, a woman (obviously) and from the world of business, thus complementing the leader. But, as I understand it, the deputy leader of the parliamentary party has to be a member of the Commons. If there is not to be a change to the constitution, perhaps there is one answer to both questions.

1 comment:

Frank Little said...

Well, it seems that Mark Williams is not to be deputy leader, but he is to be included in Team Farron. His role will be announced next month, but it looks as if it will be as a leader of special campaigns. refers.