What an incredibly close result! After much thought, I’d backed Chris, but it was a close decision.
I’ve worked closely with both Nick and Chris on a range of issues – with Nick on our crime campaign earlier this year – and with Chris on a range of local issues, as well as packaging, the environment and post offices. I saw them at their first hustings in Newbury. I saw them both in successive weeks at the Winchester and Meon Valley Annual Dinners. I watched almost every appearance on TV. And then I chaired a meeting of them both at the Tower Arts Centre in Winchester.
Almost none of this made the final decision easier. If anything, the whole process increased my respect for both of them.
I remain a fan of Chris. His leadership of our environment team has been an inspiration. He has put us miles ahead of the other parties in this area. His boldness, his ability to lead the agenda – to be a rainmaker – is a huge asset to the party and I very much hope that he will be a very close and core member of Nick’s team.
However, the last few weeks, and Nick’s first 24 hours as Leader, have also made me confident that Nick will be a great leader for the Liberal Democrats. I’m excited about his ideas for giving people more power over their lives and the public services that affect them and for finding new ways to connect with voters. I saw his real passion at the candidate meeting in Winchester for social justice, for improving education, for an effective and humane criminal justice system and for tackling the ramshackle and failing British constitution.
And he’s already delivering. I thought he was great on Newsnight (despite an especially fatuous line of questioning from Jeremy Paxman). At a time when Brown is once again in denial (Crises will be forgotten – Brown), Nick’s candour and honesty during the course of today’s interviews has been a breath of fresh air. It’s too soon to know what impact he’s having on voters, but he’s certainly energised me.