I’ve made my decision and voted for Clegg. With two candidates so similar and performing roughly equal in the “beauty contest”, both of which I haven’t been able summon up much enthusiasm for, but equally both of which I would be able to live with, there have been two reasons why Clegg has just shaded it for me. Empathy and potential.
50/50 on the beauty scale
My general feeling throughout this contest has been that I have been more disposed to go for Clegg but have been disappointed with his performance, and less inclined towards Huhne but impressed with his, in the word of the campaign, cojones. I’ve characterised this campaign as being a necessary beauty contest so the obvious question is which one is more “beautiful”? Which one looks best on telly? Or to put it in more sophisticated terms which one will perform better with the media and connect with the public in a way that will get the Liberal Democrats noticed?
On the evidence of their performance in this campaign alone the answer is that they seem to be roughly as good as each other. Both have shown strengths and weaknesses in the various media performances they have done. Neither have landed a knockout blow on the other and the majority of the non-partisan reviews have scored them roughly even each time. Which doesn’t make this choice any easier.
So with them scoring 50/50 on the beauty scale I’ve felt I’ve needed to look at secondary factors. This is where Clegg has scored for me in two areas that have decided my vote. It is here that the blogs have helped. The Lib Dem blogosphere was hugely important in helping me to think through my choices in the last leadership contest. However, much of what has gone on in the blogosphere this time has been annoying and disappointing. Far too much heat and not enough light. But there have been a number of good posts that have helped. Two of these have pointed to my reasons for voting for Clegg.
The first is this post on Liberal Democrat Voice by Stephen Tall which, amongst other things, highlighted the strength that Nick Clegg has in being an empathic politician. Stephen said;
“Nick has got saddled with the sobriquet, the ‘great communicator’, but I think it’s misleading. To be sure, he’s a good platform speaker, and can be a highly effective talking head for the party. But that’s not his real strength, which is to persuade those to whom he’s talking that he’s listening to them, that he’s considering what they’re going through, and that his reply will be both spontaneous and individual.”
I’ve hinted in other posts on this blog of my interest in the role that personality has in politics and this is an area where have read some interesting evidence about the difference between the personality types of politicians and that of the general public. I have also been quite heavily influenced in my thinking by the concept of emotional intelligence. This has led me to develop a healthy regard for the importance of politicians that are able to display qualities of empathy. Empathic politicians can build bridges between the world of politics and the world which most people inhabit.
Of the two Clegg is clearly the more naturally empathic politician. For me this is an important reason for voting Clegg.
The second post that has given me a helpful pointer to making my decision is this article from James Graham on Comment is Free. James makes this telling point;
“For better or worse, the Huhne (53) we have now is the definitive article. Clegg (40) is more of a work in progress, something which carries obvious risks but enormous potential benefits as well.”
There is no question in my mind that Clegg has under-performed in this contest, which of course means he has the potential to improve. I also feel that Huhne has performed at his best. Given that both have as a result come out even in the “beauty contest” this leads me to the following conclusion. I win for Huhne will give the party a leader very much as we see now. I win for Clegg will give us a leader who could get much better. Now inevitably there is an element of risk in this. There is no guarantee that Clegg will improve. But I believe that now is the time for risk taking.
So making my second reason for voting Clegg is his potential. I am not voting particularly for the politician we’ve seen over the last few weeks, I am voting for the politician I hope he will become.
I could be disappointed. But, hey, I’m a Liberal Democrat. Optimism is hard wired into our genes!
This content was originally posted on my old Process Guy blog.