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18 December 2007

Clegg wins Lib Dem contest

Lynne Featherstone, who ran Chris Huhne's campaign for leader, gives her reaction to Nick Clegg's vi

By Lynne Featherstone

Not my week! First X-Factor’s Leon and now Nick! Seriously though – well done to Nick. Commiserations to my brave candidate Chris – who fought a phenomenal campaign. And before I turn to Nick, let me first give credit to Chris for his superb campaigning.

When the going got tough – as it did – Chris did not lose his cool or hit out in the way so many do. The measure of this man is his hunger, his energy, his temperament and his determination. At the start I said Chris has the cojones. Not half he has!

However, he lost and Nick won – and the quality of Chris’s campaign means that Nick’s victory over that reflects well on Nick. I suspect that Nick found winning much harder than he expected at the start of the campaign – but if he has come out of the campaign a tougher and more seasoned campaigner (and I know I did each time I ran in party selections for rather less high profile posts) – then that is all to the good for the party and our future.

Nick’s direction, verve, energy and messages are what will now be key to driving the party forward to success. This contest has been about our future – and the point of wanting the crown is not just to wear it – but what Nick does with it. He has got to deliver on the promises he made – to be anti-establishment and to deliver principled radicalism and to challenge the cosy consensus of the stagnant, old-fashioned, two-party politics further and faster.

Those are shared aims across both leadership campaigns – so I have no doubt that the whole party will be wishing Nick luck, and working hard to help him deliver those aims.

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Today begins a new era for Liberal Democracy. This is a break with the past and a mandate to change the way politics is done. We are at a critical point in our trajectory in British politics. We need more seats to deliver more Liberal Democrat policies with a bigger and louder voice!

Of course, the real problem is that in the next election we will be focused on by the media probably solely on who we will get into bed with if there is a hung Parliament. I say ignore all that crap and fight to win. If the maths delivers such a verdict – then we should respect that outcome and deal with it when it arises, always doing that which will see the maximum number of our policies and beliefs enacted.

But we should also remember (and remind the media!) that a hung Parliament would raise questions for both Brown and Cameron on how they would act: so each time a journalist asks about a hung Parliament, we should perhaps politely promise to give them an answer – until after they have run their stories about Brown and Cameron’s answers first!

Meanwhile, we must raise our membership; make sure that we will have a more diverse representation in the elected positions at every level of office; champion the key issues of fairness and greenness; and stand up for and fight for freedom against the over-weaning, authoritarian centralist proposition of New Labour and expose the vacuous poverty of Cameron and his Conservatives.

All of this is underpinned by our belief in a liberal society: tolerant people living in peace freely; caring about those who cannot take care of themselves; looking after our planet and the future; being honourable in our international responsibilities and eschewing the corrosive seduction of the ‘it’s business – that’s how the world works’ school.

So – congratulations to Nick for winning this leadership contest – and now let’s work together to win more power for that which we all believe in!

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