I am feeling completely scunnered with this Party Presidential Election. And while I'm at it, much though I love Liberal Youth to bits, I share Michael's unimpressedness that their Executive were so quick to back any candidate, especially at a time when they were signing up new members as the university terms start who were perfectly capable of making up their own minds without direction. Being told what to do by any organisation winds me up immensely, so their move may yet be counterproductive.
Ros Scott is the best president this party has ever had, bar none. She is a brilliant chair of the Federal Executive - and steering it through the Coalition negotiations in relative harmony took calmness, the best interpersonal skills and empathetic leadership. She threw her heart and soul into supporting campaigning across the country. She's been contactable and she listens to what people have to say. She comes as close as you can get to being irreplaceable.
And then Jennie, the only genuine grassroots candidate for President didn't get on the ballot. She would have really added a realism and a perspective to the election that will now just not be there. It was always going to be a tough challenge to get the required nominations in 2 weeks. Ros Scott spent a year and a half at least touring the country before the 2008 election in which she so comprehensively beat the frontrunner, Lembit Opik. Jennie had two weeks. She has loads to offer this party and I hope that whoever becomes President listens to her.
I'm in a dilemma now, because I genuinely don't know who to vote for. I think I'm just going to enjoy that for a while, and let them fight for my vote. All too often, I determine I'm going to be neutral in these internal party elections, but then I make my mind up quickly and end up throwing myself into a campaign. My track record isn't good, but I'm determined not to this time, for at least two weeks anyway.
Both Tim Farron and Susan Kramer have enormous strengths. I've telephone canvassed in Tim's constituency during local elections and I know that the very mention of his name, even to someone who says they're voting Conservative, brings forth a string of compliments that's almost embarrassing. You have to admire someone who increases his majority from next to nothing to 12,000.
But good people lose, too. Some of the best campaigners in the party lost their seats in May and that's no reflection on them. Sadly, Susan lost out to the eye-wateringly rich Zac Goldsmith in a very tough fight. She's a huge loss as an MP. I still remember her 2000 campaign for London Mayor. Her's was the first high profile political speech Anna ever listened to - as a 3 month old at the Party Conference in Harrogate in 1999. I was instantly impressed with Susan and her pledge to walk along every single High Street in London. I seem to remember yellow Doc Martens as well, but I can't find any evidence to back that up.
Just as an aside, if websites were my only deciding factor, Susan would win my vote hands down. Clicking on Tim's you get a block of text with a massive "endorse me" form. Susan's has video, 3 clear points as to why to back her and all the information you need on the front page.
But it's not down to that. Both of them, fabulous though they are, have issues that worry me greatly. Put simply, they're so much a part of the London Centric Westminster Bubble that I don't see how either of them can properly represent my views as a member. In addition, as far as Tim is concerned, I don't see how as an MP working 70 hours per week minimum, even he will have the energy to put another 30 in to do the job of President properly. Although if anyone can, I concede that it's him.
Susan may not be an MP any more, but she's only just outside the bubble. Tim is still at its heart. But representing a northern constituency, he has at least a feel for what life up north is like.
I guess who gets my vote will boil down to who answers these four questions to my satisfaction:
If the Party membership is uneasy about action taken by the Government, what will you do?
We all know that the Liberal Democrats are distinctive and independent but how will you work to get that message across to the voters?
What will you do practically to support Scottish Liberal Democrats between now and their elections next year? (and the same could be said for Wales, too)
How will you improve diversity in our representation at UK level?
These are not the only questions, but they're the issues which are weighing heaviest on my mind right at this moment.
And as an added bonus, thanks to a lovely Facebook friend who phoned me and pointed me in their direction, are two 90 second videos in which Tim and Susan set out their stalls, filmed by Alex Folkes and posted here and here on You Tube, and embedded here in no particular order