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Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2007

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Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2007

Liberal Democrats leadership election

17 October 2007 (2007-10-17)-18 December 2007 (2007-12-18)

Candidate Nick Clegg Chris Huhne
Votes Received 20,988 20,477
Percentage 50.6 49.4

Leader before election

Sir Menzies Campbell

Elected Leader

Nick Clegg

The 2007 Liberal Democrats leadership election was held following the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell as leader on 15 October 2007, after 19 months as leader of the Liberal Democrats, the third-largest political party in the United Kingdom. Vincent Cable, the deputy leader of the parliamentary party, was acting leader until the conclusion of the leadership election.[1] The result was announced on 18 December 2007 with Nick Clegg winning by a narrow margin of 1.2%.[2]


Candidate Votes %
Nick Clegg 20,988 50.6
Chris Huhne 20,477 49.4
Turnout 41,465 64.1
Sources: result;[2] turnout[3]

The turnout at this leadership election was over 10,000 fewer than in the 2006 election. A total of 64,727 ballot papers were issued, compared with 72,064 for the 2006 contest.


The resignation of Menzies Campbell came after a period of speculation about his future as party leader. This was seen as due to media-inspired concerns over his age and poor poll ratings for the party. This speculation mounted after Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced he would not be calling a General Election in 2007.[4] The resignation was announced by the party president Simon Hughes and the deputy leader of the parliamentary party Vincent Cable.

The rules of the contest

The timetable for the election was announced on 16 October 2007 with the new leader to be announced on 18 December.[1] Liberal Democrat leadership elections use the Alternative Vote system, the single-winner version of the Single Transferable Vote, although, since only two candidates contested this election the contest effectively became a simple plurality vote.

Nominations for candidates opened on 16 October 2007 and closed at 16:00 (UTC+0) on 31 October: each candidate needed the support of at least 10% of Liberal Democrat MPs (i.e. 7 MPs) and at least 200 party members from at least 20 different local parties. MPs could only nominate one candidate, unlike the previous election.

A series of online and offline hustings meetings were held around the country, and were listed on the party's official news page for the contest.[5]

Balloting of members commenced on 21 November with the distribution of ballots to party members, the deadline for their return being 15 December and the victor to be announced at around 2:30 p.m. on 18 December 2007.[6][7][8]

Leadership campaign

Opening of the campaign

Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne

In media reports and the betting markets,[9] the front-runners were friends[10] Nick Clegg (Home Affairs spokesperson) and Chris Huhne (Environment spokesperson). Huhne ran in the 2006 leadership election, coming second to Campbell, whom Clegg had supported.

After Campbell's surprise resignation, there was speculation as to who would run.[9] Various contenders ruled themselves out early on (including notably Vincent Cable,[11] Edward Davey,[12] Lynne Featherstone,[13] Julia Goldsworthy,[14] Simon Hughes,[1] Susan Kramer,[12] David Laws,[15] Sarah Teather[16] and Steve Webb[17]), leading to the possibility of only two candidates achieving sufficient nominations. Huhne launched his campaign first on Wednesday 17 October, with Clegg launching his on Friday 19 October.

John Hemming announced on his blog that he wished to stand, and that he was taking soundings from colleagues, but he went on to acknowledge that it would be too difficult for him to obtain sufficient MP nominators. Former leader Charles Kennedy initially said he was "highly unlikely" to run again, and that it is not part of his "game plan", but did not completely rule out the possibility.[12] He later more clearly rejected the idea.

Huhne and then Clegg submitted their formal nomination paperwork. Clegg attracted most support from fellow MPs, although both candidates had high-profile supporters, including former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown for Clegg and former Liberal leader David Steel for Huhne.

Nominations closed at 16:00 (UTC+0) on 31 October 2007.[18]

Policy differences

Nick Clegg has taken a more multilateralist line than Chris Huhne, who is opposed to the Trident ballistic missile system. Nick Clegg favours retaining half of Trident's arsenal to use as a bargaining chip in 2010 negotiations, Chris Huhne sees saving money on the nuclear deterrent as being a viable means of raising money to fund greater spending on army equipment and conventional weaponry with the possibility of a smaller deterrent system.

Chris Huhne has emphasised his opposition to voucher systems in the provision of public services. Nick Clegg denies supporting voucher systems, and has gone on record as ruling such systems out.

Nick Clegg has stated that he sees the Liberal Democrats role in a hung parliament as being to support whichever party is most likely to be able to form a government, however he has said that the other two main party leaders and their parties are both conservative and that he is neither an heir to Blair nor a Cameron clone and that he sees liberalism as being more important than ever, and has accused Chris Huhne of entering "an unholy alliance" with the SNP and Conservatives over the environment and his supporting the principle of elements of the Conservative Party plans to have English only voting for English only matters.[19]

On most issues the two candidates share common positions on the environment, identity cards, counter-terrorism and the war in Iraq.[20][21][22][23]

The campaign continues

Both candidates appeared at several hustings organised by the party. There were also joint appearances on the BBC's TV shows Question Time, Newsnight and The Politics Show, the latter of which saw a spat between the candidates after Huhne's campaign team had delivered a press briefing document to the show mistitled "Calamity Clegg", leading to a formal complaint from the Clegg team.

Huhne was generally acknowledged to have "edged" the televised debate - the candidates clashed on issues including Trident and presentation - and a straw poll following the Cambridge hustings placed Huhne as much as 2-1 ahead.[24] However, given the unreliability of such polls, and Clegg's continued position as the bookies' favourite, the consensus in the party and media was that the two were running neck and neck.[25] Some columnists have been critical of Clegg's debate performances.[26]

A YouGov poll of party members gave Clegg a 56% to 44% lead in late November, although about half of respondents had yet to vote. On 3 December 2007, on the basis of another poll, Clegg claimed to be well ahead with 60% of votes cast so far in his favour.[27]

Votes delayed in Christmas post

About 1,300 postal votes were caught up in the Christmas post and missed the election deadline. An unofficial check of the late papers showed Huhne had enough votes among them to hand him victory. Huhne stood by the result, saying "Nick Clegg won fair and square on the rules counting the ballot papers that arrived in by the deadline. There is no question of any re-run."[28][29]


At the close of nominations, the following had been successfully nominated.

Nick Clegg

Supporters included:

Chris Huhne

Supporters included:

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Campbell quits as Lib Dem leader".  
  2. ^ a b "Nick Clegg is new Lib Dem leader".  
  3. ^ Wintour, Patrick (18 December 2007). "Clegg plans quick reshuffle if he wins Lib Dem leadership". London: Guardian. Retrieved 18 December 2007. 
  4. ^ "Lib Dem leader resigns".  
  5. ^ Liberal Democrats (23 November 2007). "Liberal Democrats : Leadership election". Archived from the original on 23 November 2007. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  6. ^ Ryan, Rosalind (16 October 2007). "Liberal Democrat election timetable".  
  7. ^ Byers, David (16 October 2007). "Timeline: Liberal Democrat leadership race".  
  8. ^ Prince, Rosa (15 December 2007). "Chris Huhne prepares for a surprise win". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  9. ^ a b "BBC: Contenders: Lib Dem leadership". BBC News. 7 November 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  10. ^ Helm, Toby; Carlin, Brendan (15 October 2007). "Huhne and Clegg:Deadly political rivals". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  11. ^ "'"BBC: Huhne 'to bid for Lib Dem leader. BBC News. 17 October 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  12. ^ a b c "'"BBC: Kennedy 'unlikely to run again. BBC News. 17 October 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  13. ^ a b "My choice for Lib Dem leader". 
  14. ^ a b "'"Sir Ming quit after 'Seven days of reports on my age. 
  15. ^ "Laws: I'm not standing for the leadership". 
  16. ^ "Sarah Backs Nick Clegg". 
  17. ^ "Epolotix: Webb ruled out of Lib Dem race". 
  18. ^ Huhne to unveil manifesto as nominations close for Lib Dem leadership, Guardian Online, 31 October 2007
  19. ^ Nick Clegg blasts 'unholy alliance' Chris Huhne, Daily Telegraph, 1 November 2007
  20. ^ Lib-Dems turned upside-down as leadership front-runner suggests pact with Tories, Daily Mail, 28 October 2007
  21. ^ Nick Clegg answers your questions, Daily Telegraph, 1 November 2007
  22. ^ Huhne woos the left as Lib Dem leadership nominations close, Guardian Online, 1 November 2007
  23. ^ Key points of Clegg and Huhne's leadership manifestos, Guardian Online, 31 October 2007
  24. ^ Lib Dem leadership: voting begins BBC News - The Politics Show, 23 November 2007
  25. ^ Revill, Jo (18 November 2007). "Huhne 'closing' in Lib Dem race". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  26. ^ Finkelstein, Daniel (21 November 2007). "Stop hiding behind the sofa". The Times (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  27. ^ "UK | UK Politics | Clegg claims lead in Lib Dem race". BBC News. 3 December 2007. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  28. ^ MP Huhne stands by Lib Dem leadership election results The Southern Daily Echo 7 April 2008
  29. ^ Jane Merrick Meet the real leader of the Liberal Democrats Independent on Sunday 6 April 2008
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Be bolder' urges Clegg as he launches leadership campaign"'". The Independent (London). 19 October 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  31. ^ "Baker and Lloyd back Nick Clegg". 
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i Summers, Deborah (26 October 2007). "Clegg is firm favourite among Lib Dem MPs". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  33. ^ a b c "Clegg's Positive Campaign has momentum at start of ballot week". 
  34. ^ a b c d e "Supporter List". 
  35. ^ a b c d "BBC: Clegg picking up Lib Dem backers". BBC News. 18 October 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  36. ^ "Farron backs Clegg for Lib Dem leadership bid".  
  37. ^ "David Heath MP Endorses Nick Clegg". 
  38. ^ "Hemming endorses Clegg". 
  39. ^ Mulholland, Hélène (2 November 2007). "Hughes backs Clegg for Lib Dem leader". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  40. ^ "Laws supports Clegg in leadership contest". Archived from the original on 25 October 2007. 
  41. ^ "Moore backs Clegg after Ming". 
  42. ^ "Hampshire MP will not be drawn on leadership fight". 
  43. ^ "Opik sides with Clegg on Lib-Dem vote". 
  44. ^ a b "Clegg has clean sweep of Scottish MPs". 
  45. ^ "BBC: Webb will not run for Lib Dem job". BBC News. 18 October 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  46. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Supporting Nick". 
  47. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Liberal Democrat Peers Backing Nick". 
  48. ^ a b "Nick gets the backing of Bill Newton-Dunn and Lord Clement-Jones". 
  49. ^ a b c "Key Peers Endorse Nick Clegg". 
  50. ^ "Baroness Shirley Williams Endorses Nick Clegg for Liberal Democrat Leader". 
  51. ^ a b c d "Huhne has the backing of majority of LibDem MSPs to become party leader". 
  52. ^ "Michael German AM Endorses Clegg Campaign". 
  53. ^ "A Bit of a Week". 
  54. ^ "Sir Cyril Smith MBE Endorses Nick Clegg". 
  55. ^ "Francois Bayrou Backs Nick Clegg For Lib Dem Leader". 
  56. ^ "The Independent: "Clegg should be given the chance to turn the current daunting challenges facing the Liberal Democrats into a fresh opportunity." (leading article, 23 Nov 2007)". London. 23 November 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  57. ^ The Guardian: "If this newspaper was to cast a vote, it would be for him [Clegg]." (leading article, 17 Nov 2007)
  58. ^ a b c Peev, Gerri (18 October 2007). "Huhne in second run at leadership". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 
  59. ^ a b Coates, Sam (18 October 2007). "First Lib Dem candidate happy to be an underdog". The Times (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  60. ^ a b "Huhne Leadership Election Campaign Gains Momentum". 
  61. ^ "Clegg urges Lib Dems to be bolder". London:  
  62. ^ "John Leech MP Backs Chris Huhne". 
  63. ^ "Matthew Taylor Gives His Backing to Chris". 
  64. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Chris Huhne Nominated First For Party Leader". 
  65. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Supporters Backing Chris Huhne for Leader". 
  66. ^ a b "Dick Newby and Anna Werrin to have key roles in Huhne campaign". 
  67. ^ "A straight choice between Clegg & Huhne?". 
  68. ^ "Clegg MPs' favourite for Lib Dem leadership".  
  69. ^ a b c d e f "Huhne has backing of majority of LibDem MSPs". 
  70. ^ "Andrew Duff Gives His Backing to Huhne". 
  71. ^ "Smith endorses Huhne". 
  72. ^ "Bates to Back Huhne in Leadership Contest". 
  73. ^ "Sal Brinton: Why I'm backing Chris". 
  74. ^ """Kennedy Campaign Manager Candy says "I'm backing Chris!. Chris Huhne campaign website. 20 October 2007. Archived from the original on 22 October 2007. Retrieved 20 October 2007. 
  75. ^ "Get off the fence with Chris Huhne". 
  76. ^ Toynbee, Polly (16 November 2007). "The Lib Dems face a clear choice: get radical or fudge into eternal decline". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  77. ^ "Wanted: an anti-Establishment insurgent for the third party". 

External links

  • Official Chris Huhne Leadership Campaign Site
  • Official Nick Clegg Leadership Campaign Site
  • Full text of the announcement of Menzies Campbell's resignation
  • Full text: Sir Menzies Campbell's resignation letter
  • Betting odds comparison site
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