So that’s that. The Liberal Democrat leadership debates are over, the question is now of course, as we discussed in our earlier pod cast, will it be Jenny or Kirsty for the role?
Having witnessed some of the debates first hand I felt it would be a good idea to share with you my thoughts.
The first point that struck me is that there is little difference in policy or approach. Both candidates are essentially arguing for the same changes, both speak about finding a strong ‘Welsh’ identity for the party. Both speak about enthusing the young supporter base and both want to be more accessible to party members.
The cynical side of me did wonder that if the party was seeking a more Welsh identity then perhaps they could have had 1) at least one candidate who was born in Wales 2) a chairperson who didn’t sound like Prince Charles (I have to add that the chair was a very bright and friendly person, if a bit posh).
Jenny Randerson is certainly playing the experience card, which of course makes political sense. Often she used phrases like “when I was a minister” and continually referred to her 21 years as a Councillor. Setting her sights high she tried to match this experience with ambition claiming that she could double the number of Lib Dem AM’s by 2016 (yes I did say double).
Kirsty Williams wants to take the Lib Dem’s out of the ‘Cardiff Bay bubble’ and argued the need for the Lib Dem’s to increase their party membership and quickly. She called for caution by reminding the audience that Paddy Ashtown took 10 years before getting any electoral success. But that’s all we really got from her, there seemed to be a lack of clarity in her message compared to her opponents.
Having chatted with the party members and by looking at the debates myself, I have a sense that Jenny Randerson might just sneak it, but it will be close. Neither candidate are Blair like in their delivery, but Kirsty Williams speech felt a little more staged, as if she was in the Eisteddfod. And whilst she certainly looks the part, a dynamic young woman I think at this stage in her career she is simply too lightweight to compete.
Anyway, knowing my track record with predictions and appreciating how close it is, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Kirsty Williams is the first Welsh female political leader.
Can I take a moment here to ask all politicians in Wales and the World to stop comparing themselves or their parties to politicians and political parties in the US, and no more election jokes please!!!!