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Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2007

Template:Infobox Election 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.[1] The result was announced on 18 December 2007 with Nick Clegg winning by a narrow margin of 1.2%.[2]


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.[3] 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.[1] Liberal Democrat leadership elections use the Alternative Vote system, the single-winner version of the Single Transferable Vote, although, since only two candidates contested this election the contest effectively became a simple plurality vote.

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.[4]

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.[5][6][7]

Leadership campaign

Opening of the campaign

File:Chris and Nick 01.jpg
Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne

In media reports and the betting markets,[8] the front-runners were friends[9] 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.[8] Various contenders ruled themselves out early on (including notably Vincent Cable,[10] Edward Davey,[11] Lynne Featherstone,[12] Julia Goldsworthy,[13] Simon Hughes,[1] Susan Kramer,[11] David Laws,[14] Sarah Teather[15] and Steve Webb[16]), 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.[11] 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 had 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.[17]

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 retaining[citation needed] 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 system[citation needed].

Chris Huhne has emphasised his opposition to voucher systems[citation needed] 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 government[citation needed], 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.[18]

On most issues the two candidates share common positions on the environment, identity cards, counter-terrorism and the war in Iraq.[19][20][21][22]

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 Huhne's campaign team had delivered a press briefing document to the show mistitled "Calamity Clegg", leading to a formal 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.[23] 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.[24] Some columnists have been critical of Clegg's debate performances.[25]

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.[26]

Votes delayed in Christmas post

About 1,300 postal votes were caught up in the Christmas post and missed the election deadline. An unofficial check of the late papers showed Huhne had enough votes among them to hand him victory. Huhne stood by the result, saying "Nick Clegg won fair and square on the rules counting the ballot papers that arrived in by the deadline. There is no question of any re-run."[27][28]


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

Nick Clegg

Supporters included:

Chris Huhne

Supporters included:


Candidate Votes  %
Nick Clegg 20,988 50.6
Chris Huhne 20,477 49.4
Turnout 41,465 64.1
Sources: result;[2] turnout[77]

The turnout at this leadership election was over 10,000 fewer than in the 2006 election. A total of 64,727 ballot papers were issued, compared with 72,064 for the 2006 contest.


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External links