After a bitter leadership contest lasting two months and dogged by various revelations about the candidates, Sir Menzies Campbell has emerged as the new leader of the Liberal Democrats. The current Party President, Simon Hughes - initially thought to be one of the strongest contenders, was knocked out in the first round and his votes were transferred under the Single Transferable Vote system. The second round involved a close stand-off between the two remaining candidates, but in the end Campbell came out on top with 57% of the vote, beating economic affairs spokesman Chris Huhne to the post. Both defeated candidates pledged their immediate support to Campbell following the result.
Personally, I’m not sure exactly what to make of the whole leadership contest. If you’d asked me for my thoughts at the beginning, I would have probably put my money on Simon Hughes - as his role as Party President has already given him a lot of media coverage and he was generally well regarded within the party as far as I could tell. His admission that he misled people over his sexuality seems to have hurt his campaign more than I would otherwise have thought - I certainly didn’t expect him to come last out of three candidates. Huhne, on the other hand, did a lot better than I initially expected, especially for someone who only became an MP at the last general election. He’s certainly one to watch over the coming months, and could possibly use his success to bolster his chances for victory at the next leadership election, should Campbell decide to step down in the next four to five years.
It now remains to be seen whether Campbell can repair the damage done to the party over the last few months, although the recent by-election victory in Dunfermline and West Fife will help to an extent. Unless there any more scandals about to come out, the media will drift away now that the contest is over, although coverage hasn’t been anything like as much as it was for the equivalent Conservative leadership race before Christmas.
On a somewhat lighter note, it looks like it might be Gordon vs. Ming at the next general election (not really sure how Cameron fits into it, perhaps he can be Klytus?), although I’m sure Private Eye and other satirical publications have made that comment a dozen times already.