Lib Dems need advice on publicity

AS I predicted, the Liberal Democrats have again missed a massive publicity opportunity in the way their leadership contest is being conducted.Like last year when Sir Menzies Campbell emerged to take over from the deposed leader Charles Kennedy, the Lib Dems are talking to themselves.

By Graham Dines

AS I predicted, the Liberal Democrats have again missed a massive publicity opportunity in the way their leadership contest is being conducted.

Like last year when Sir Menzies Campbell emerged to take over from the deposed leader Charles Kennedy, the Lib Dems are talking to themselves. The two contenders Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg are engaged in a navel gazing exercise when the opportunity is there to attract the attention of an electorate wider than the 50,000 or so Lib Dem members throughout the UK.

The party has learned nothing from the way the Tories were able to spark an electoral revival when the high profile leadership struggle resulted in David Cameron outflanking David Davis to succeed Michael Howard in the run up to Christmas in 2005.

Indeed, Mr Huhne's media operation is nothing short of a calamity. Mr Clegg is making all the right noises with journalists and his energetic press team headed by Ruth Brock has left the Huhne machine trailing in its wake.

The two will be on parade at Churchill College in Cambridge on November 21 for the East of England hustings. Only Lib Dem members will be admitted, but at least this region is not being ignored - unlike last year when it was only the enterprise shown by the Bury St Edmunds constituency which enabled some of the candidates to be seen in the area.

Most Read

EAST Anglia's Conservatives are in full cry, distributing thousands of postcards to enable people to demand a referendum on what the party insists is “the revived EU constitution” or the Treaty of Lisbon as it is called in bureaucratic circles.

One of our Euro MPs Geoffrey Van Orden is leading the charge. “This is an issue of enormous importance for our country. Most observers agree that the new treaty is just the constitution in another guise.

“Most people want a referendum and they should be given it,” says Mr Van Orden who adds: “The fact that there was not a referendum on the Single European Act or Maastricht makes it even more important that there should be one now. At the very time that people are demanding more control over their own lives, Gordon Brown signs up to a new EU Treaty that hands more power to remote institutions in Brussels.”

What is worrying Tory strategists nationally is the possibility of Gordon Brown adopting a Liberal Democrat policy - put forward by Sir Ming Campbell before he dramatically quit - that a referendum is held on British membership of the EU rather than the constitution.

Although there are a number of Labour doubters over Europe, they would be drowned out by an enthusiastic Gordon Brown led campaign for “a Say Yes to Europe” vote. It's the Conservatives which would be split by such a move - the Eurosceptic hard right would take up the challenge and battle for withdrawal from the EU while David Cameron would be forced to back Brown.

ALTHOUGH the Tories' revival is holding up, they are a long way short of a winning position if an election was held tomorrow. The aggregate of the latest opinion polls would produce the following result: Labour 334, Conservative 267, Lib Dem 16, giving Labour an overall majority of 18 when the nationalists and Ulster contingent are taken into account.