08:17 Thursday 16th July 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
DOTTY MCLEOD: Big political movement later on this afternoon. The new Leader of the Liberal Democrats is going to be chosen, Nick Clegg’s successor. Voting closed yesterday. There’s been a face-off between the party’s former President Tim Farron and ex-Minister Norman Lamb. I’m joined by our Political Correspondent Paul Rowley. Now Paul I know you’re a football fan. Can I have a score prediction please.
PAUL ROWLEY: Tim Farron three to two majority I would have thought. Three to two victory. I think he should win by about 60% of the vote. 40% to Norman Lamb. Tim Farron popular with the grass roots, what’s left of them after their annihilation at the General Election. His rival Norman Lamb much respected. He was a Minister in the last Government. maybe that’s a problem for him, because that’s possibly one of the reasons they were punished at the ballot box for going into coalition with the Conservatives. At the time Tim Farron was free to vote against his party on things like university tuition fees, which was such a damaging issue for them, and what became known as the bedroom tax. But whereas this is a party Dotty with fifty seven MPs when they entered Government, including when Julian Huppert was the MP for Cambridge. They’re now down to a rump of just eight of them, their lowest total since the Liberal Democrats were formed. Indeed you’ve got to go back to the General Election of 1970, the year Tim Farron was born incidentally, the year the Beatles split up, and I think the year that Cambridge United entered the Football League when it was worse than this. The old Liberal Party had just half a dozen seats under the late Jeremy Thorpe.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So you’ve been following the campaign. What’s it been like?
PAUL ROWLEY: It’s hardly generated that much interest I have to confess. Although there have been twenty five head to head debates around the country, only one of them was on national television, on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC2 no less. What do you mean Dotty you missed it? (THEY LAUGH) In many ways part of the problem is the two candidates are not that different. Norman Lamb is older at fifty seven. He has the support of the Establishment. The likes of Paddy Ashdown, Menzies Campbell and Shirley Williams have been supporting him. Tim Farron is seen as more to the left, although he did come under fire during this campaign when his critics highlighted the fact that he abstained in the Commons vote on gay marriage. He is a practicing Christian. It prompted accusations of dirty tricks from Norman Lamb’s team, because two of his campaign team had to resign over this. But that was the nearest thing to excitement we got during the course of this contest, other than the fact that Norman Lamb suggested there ought to be gay characters in Peppa Pig, which is I would argue not a policy that’s going to swing many elections I would have though.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Yes. So only two candidates. I’m wondering if that’s because this is going to be a tough gig, isn’t it, for whoever wins?
PAUL ROWLEY: Almost impossible. If you think, you know you’ve got two candidates, but that’s a quarter of the parliamentary party. And one of them is Nick Clegg, who’s clearly stood down as Leader, although he is still an MP. It’s going to be impossible in the short term I would have thought. And it’s going to be very long for them to haul it back. The problem is visibility Dotty. When they had fifty seven MPs at least they had a presence in Cambridge. They’ve always been strong, or were strong, in Cambridge in terms of councillors. But they’ve lost half of their councillors since they joined the Government. They’re down to one Euro MP. The only positive is they’re starting to recruit again. Of the 60,000 members eligible to vote in this contest, 17,000 of them, more than a quarter, have joined since the General Election. And frankly whoever wins this one has to get noticed. Both are quite engaging characters. Tim Farron, chirpy chap, always uses words like ‘belting’ and ‘flipping heck’. You know, a Lancashire lad, down to earth, Blackburn Rovers supporter. He has got a hinterland as a politician. He’s got four kids. He was in a group too. He was in a group called Fred the Girl, which he describes as a kind of fourth division New Order. Norman Lamb too, he’s got music connections, because the rapper Dappy .. I know you’re a great fan Dotty ..
DOTTY MCLEOD: I know Dappy. Dappy is in N-Dubz.
PAUL ROWLEY: Yes. And Dappy is backing Norman Lamb, because he knows Norman’s son Archie Lamb, who is a very good music producer I’m told. Indeed he discovered Tinchy Strider, who I’m told is rather big on the scene at the moment. Norman’s wife by the way is called Mary, so it’s true to say Dotty that Mary had a little Lamb. Indeed she had two of them.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Very nice. Paul Rowley, really good to talk to you. Thank you very much. And I’m sure we will talk to Paul soon. Keep your ears across our news bulletins here at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to find out who wins that position as new Leader of the Liberal Democrats later on this afternoon.