Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2007

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.cite web| url = | title = Campbell quits as Lib Dem leader | accessdate = 2007-10-19 | date = 2007-10-15| work = BBC News Online| publisher = "BBC"] The result was announced on 18 December 2007 with Nick Clegg winning by a narrow margin of 1.2%.cite news|publisher=BBC News Online|url=|title=Nick Clegg is new Lib Dem leader|accessdate=2007-12-18|date=18 December, 2007]


The turnout at this leadership election was over 10,000 fewer than in the 2006 election.


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.cite web| url = | title = Lib Dem leader resigns | accessdate = 2007-10-19 | date = 2007-10-15| work = The Herald| publisher = "The Herald"] 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. Liberal Democrat leadership elections use the Alternative Vote electoral system.

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. [cite web|url=| ]

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.cite web| url =,,2192211,00.html | title = Liberal Democrat election timetable | accessdate = 2007-10-19 | date = 2007-10-16| work = Guardian Unlimited| publisher = "The Guardian"] cite web| url =| title = Timeline: Liberal Democrat leadership race | accessdate = 2007-10-19 | date = 2007-10-16| work = Times Online| publisher = "The Times"] [cite web|url=|title=Chris Huhne prepares for a surprise win]

Leadership campaign

Opening of the campaign

In media reports and the betting markets,cite web|url=|title=BBC: Contenders: Lib Dem leadership] the front-runners were friends [cite web|url=|title=Huhne and Clegg:Deadly political rivals] 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. Various contenders ruled themselves out early on (including notably Vincent Cable,cite web|url=|title=BBC: Huhne 'to bid for Lib Dem leader'] Edward Davey, Lynne Featherstone, Julia Goldsworthy, Simon Hughes, Susan Kramer, David Laws, [cite web|url=|title=Laws: I'm not standing for the leadership] Sarah Teather [cite web|url=|title=Sarah Backs Nick Clegg] and Steve Webb [cite web|url=|title=Epolotix: Webb ruled out of Lib Dem race] ), 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.cite web|url=|title=BBC: Kennedy 'unlikely to run again'] 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 have 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. [ [,,2202360,00.html Huhne to unveil manifesto as nominations close for Lib Dem leadership] , Guardian Online, 31 October 2007]

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 retainingFact|date=December 2007 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 systemFact|date=December 2007.

Chris Huhne has emphasised his opposition to voucher systemsFact|date=December 2007 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 governmentFact|date=December 2007, 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. [ [ Nick Clegg blasts 'unholy alliance' Chris Huhne] , Daily Telegraph, 01 November 2007]

On most issues the two candidates share common positions on the environment, identity cards, counter-terrorism and the war in Iraq. [ [ Lib-Dems turned upside-down as leadership front-runner suggests pact with Tories] , Daily Mail, 28 October 2007] [ [ Nick Clegg answers your questions] , Daily Telegraph, 01 November 2007] [ [,,2202783,00.html Huhne woos the left as Lib Dem leadership nominations close] , Guardian Online, 01 November 2007] [ [,,2202482,00.html Key points of Clegg and Huhne's leadership manifestos] , Guardian Online, 31 October 2007]

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 a member of Huhne's campaign team had prepared a press briefing document mistitled "Calamity Clegg", leading to a 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. [ [ Lib Dem leadership: voting begins] BBC News - The Politics Show, 23 November 2007] 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. [cite web|url=,,2212789,00.html|title=Huhne 'closing' in Lib Dem race] Some columnists have been critical of Clegg's debate performances. [cite web|url=|title=Stop hiding behind the sofa]

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. [cite web|url=| ]


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

Nick Clegg

Supporters included:
*MPs: Danny Alexander,cite web|url=|title='Be bolder' urges Clegg as he launches leadership campaign] Norman Baker, [cite web|url=|title=Baker and Lloyd back Nick Clegg] John Barrett,cite web|url=,,2199964,00.html|title=Clegg is firm favourite among Lib Dem MPs] Alan Beith,cite web|url=|title=Clegg's Postive Campaign has momentum at start of ballot week] Colin Breed,cite web|url=|title=Supporter List] Jeremy Browne,cite web|url=|title=Sir Ming quit after 'Seven days of reports on my age'] Malcolm Bruce,cite web|url=|title='Be bolder' urges Clegg as he launches leadership campaign] Alistair Carmichael,cite web|url=|title='Be bolder' urges Clegg as he launches leadership campaign] Ed Davey, Tim Farron, [cite web|url= |title=Farron backs Clegg for Lib Dem leadership bid|publisher=North-West Evening Mail|date=2007-10-20|accessdate=2007-10-21] Don Foster,cite web|url=|title='Be bolder' urges Clegg as he launches leadership campaign] Julia Goldsworthy,cite web|url=|title=BBC: Clegg picking up Lib Dem backers] Mike Hancock, Nick Harvey, David Heath, [cite web|url=|title=David Heath MP Endorses Nick Clegg] John Hemming, [cite web|url=|title=Hemming endorses Clegg] Simon Hughes, [cite web|url=,,2204188,00.html|title=Hughes backs Clegg for Lib Dem leader] Mark Hunter,cite web|url=|title='Be bolder' urges Clegg as he launches leadership campaign] Paul Keetch, Norman Lamb,cite web|url=|title='Be bolder' urges Clegg as he launches leadership campaign] David Laws, [cite web|url=|title=Laws supports Clegg in leadership contest] Michael Moore, [cite web|url=|title=Moore backs Clegg after Ming] Greg Mulholland, Mark Oaten, [cite web|url=|title=Hampshire MP will not be drawn on leadership fight] Lembit Öpik, [cite web|url=|title=Opik sides with Clegg on Lib-Dem vote] John Pugh, Alan Reid,cite web|url=|title=Clegg has clean sweep of Scottish MPs] Willie Rennie, Dan Rogerson, Paul Rowen, Sir Robert Smith, Jo Swinson, Sarah Teather, John Thurso, Steve Webb, [cite web|url=|title=BBC: Webb will not run for Lib Dem job] Stephen Williams, Phil Willis, Richard Younger-Ross
*Lords: Lord Addington, former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, Baroness Barker, Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury,cite web|url=|title=Supporting Nick] Lord Bradshaw, Lord Clement-Jones,cite web|url=|title=Nick gets the backing of Bill Newton-Dunn and Lord Clement-Jones] Baroness Falkner of Margravine, Lord Fearn,cite web|url=|title=Liberal Democrat Peers Backing Nick] Earl of Glasgow DL, Lord Holme of Cheltenham,cite web|url=|title=Key Peers Endorse Nick Clegg] Lord Jones of Cheltenham, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, Baroness Linklater of Butterstone, Baroness Ludford (also an MEP), Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (also an MEP), Lord Razzall, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, Lord Russell-Johnston, Baroness Scott of Needham Market, Lord Smith of Clifton, Lord Thomas of Gresford, Baroness Tonge, Lord Tyler, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, Baroness Walmsley, Baroness Williams of Crosby [cite web|url=|title=Baroness Shirley Williams Endorses Nick Clegg for Liberal Democrat Leader]
*MEPs: Chris Davies, Sarah Ludford (see above), Bill Newton Dunn, Emma Nicholson (see above), Diana Wallis, Graham Watson
*MSPs: Liam McArthur,cite web|url=|title=Huhne has the backing of majority of LibDem MSPs to become party leader] Tavish Scott, Jim Tolson
*AMs: Peter Black, Michael German, [cite web|url=|title=Michael German AM Endorses Clegg Campaign] Kirsty Williams
*Other notable supporters: former MP Richard Allan, [cite web|url=|title=A Bit of a Week] "former Lord" Andrew Phillips, former MP Sir Cyril Smith, [cite web|url=|title=Sir Cyril Smith MBE Endorses Nick Clegg] François Bayrou (President of the French political party Mouvement Démocrate) [cite web|url=|title=Francois Bayrou Backs Nick Clegg For Lib Dem Leader]
*Newspapers/Magazines: The Independent, [cite web|url=|title=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)] The Guardian [ [,,2212514,00.html The Guardian: "If this newspaper was to cast a vote, it would be for him [Clegg] ." (leading article, 17 Nov 2007)] ]

Chris Huhne

Supporters included:
*MPs: Lynne Featherstonecite web|url=|title=My choice for Lib Dem leader] (campaign chairwomancite web|url=|title=Huhne in second run at leadership] ) — Tom Brake, Annette Brooke, Sandra Gidley, Evan Harris,cite web|url=|title=Huhne Leadership Election Campaign Gains Momentum] Paul Holmes, Martin Horwood, David Howarth,cite web|url=|title=First Lib Dem candidate happy to be an underdog] Susan Kramer, [cite web| url =,,-7009152,00.html | title = Clegg urges Lib Dems to be bolder | accessdate = 2007-10-19 | date = 2007-10-19| publisher = "Guardian Unlimited"] John Leech, [cite web|url=|title=John Leech MP Backs Chris Huhne] Matthew Taylor, [cite web|url=|title=Matthew Taylor Gives His Backing to Chris] Mark Williams, Roger Williams
*Lords: Lord Dholakia, Lord Ezra,cite web|url=|title=Chris Huhne Nominated First For Party Leader] Viscount Falkland, Lord Greaves, Baroness Harris of Richmond, Lord Livsey of Talgarth, former Social Democratic Party leader Lord Maclennan of Rogart, Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, Lord Newby,cite web|url=|title=Dick Newby and Anna Werrin to have key roles in Huhne campaign] Baroness Northover, Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, [cite web|url=|title=A straight choice between Clegg & Huhne?] Lord Redesdale, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, Lord Sharman, former Liberal Party leader Lord Steel of Aikwood, [cite web| url = | title = Clegg MPs' favourite for Lib Dem leadership | accessdate = 2007-10-26 | date = 2007-10-26| publisher = "icWales"] Baroness Thomas of Walliswood, Lord Thomson of Monifieth
*MEPs: Elspeth Attwooll,cite web|url=|title=Huhne has backing of majority of LibDem MSPs] Sharon Bowles, Andrew Duff, [cite web|url=|title=Andrew Duff Gives His Backing to Huhne] Liz Lynne
*MSPs: Robert Brown, Ross Finnie, Jim Hume, John Farquhar Munro,cite web|url=|title=Supporters Backing Chris Huhne for Leader] Alison McInnes, Hugh O'Donnell, Mike Pringle, Jeremy Purvis, Mike Rumbles, Margaret Smith, [cite web|url=|title=Smith endorses Huhne] Jamie Stone
*AMs: Mick Bates, [cite web|url=|title=Bates to Back Huhne in Leadership Contest] Eleanor Burnham, Jenny Randerson
*Other notable supporters: parliamentary candidate Sal Brinton, [cite web|url=|title=Sal Brinton: Why I'm backing Chris] Anna Werrin (campaign manager; former Head of the Leader's Office to Charles Kennedy), Candy Piercy (on the party's Federal Executive, President of the Liberal Democrats Agents Association), [cite web|url= |title=Kennedy Campaign Manager Candy says "I'm backing Chris!"|publisher=Chris Huhne campaign website|date=2007-10-20|accessdate=2007-10-20] Duncan Brack (Chair of the Federal Conference Committee), [cite web|url=|title=Get off the fence with Chris Huhne] Polly Toynbee (newspaper columnist) [cite web|url=,,2211954,00.html|title=The Lib Dems face a clear choice: get radical or fudge into eternal decline]
*Newspapers/Magazines: New Statesman [cite web|url=|title=Wanted: an anti-Establishment insurgent for the third party]

ee also

*Timeline of events in the Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2007


External links

* [ Official Chris Huhne Leadership Campaign Site]
* [ Official Nick Clegg Leadership Campaign Site]
* [,,2191823,00.html 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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