Everyone’s focus at the moment is, perfectly rightly, on the COVID-19 virus and all the issues and impacts that causes to us all.
Party politics seems very unimportant at the moment, when lives are being lost and people’s jobs affected.
But, as inappropriate as it may seem to some at this time, our democracy demands that politics carries on as normal as it possibly can.
And that, of necessity following December’s general election, means leadership elections in at least two political parties.
Labour will announce its new leader, in a very low key way, on Saturday.
It’s right that it’s low-key but, in my strong opinion, it’s also absolutely right that Labour have carried on with the contest and will, indeed, have their new leader.
That person will then, in a respectful way, be able to hold this government to account in regards to how it’s handled and is handling its response to this virus and the myriad of issues and problems it’s caused and is causing.
The response by my own party, the Liberal Democrats, however, has been rather different.
Its governing body, the federal board, have decided to postpone our leadership contest…not until later in the year when, we hope, life will be back to something resembling normality, but until towards the middle of next year; 2021.
Many members, including me, are deeply disheartened at this news.
Postponing for a little while, of course, we’d fully understand…but for over a year?
That is, surely, excessive and unnecessary.
The party needs a full-time leader; one that has a mandate to lead.
To hold this government to account and to begin to plan, for when regular life returns, how the party is going to rebuild following our deeply disappointing general election result.
This is not being in any way negative about our acting leader Ed Davey.
He’s a great guy, with lots of experience, including as a Secretary of State in the Coalition years, and I proudly supported him in the 2019 leadership contest against Jo Swinson.
But, I’m afraid, he has no mandate whatsoever, from the party membership, to be acting leader for what would be three times longer than Jo Swinson was our full time leader.
No one knows when the present crisis will end and the party literally can’t afford to be permanently without a full time leader.
The technology clearly exists to hold the leadership contest…hustings and voting, etc…online.
I humbly suggest the party should change its mind and hold the leadership contest later this year.
It might not appear to matter much at this time but our democracy is really important.
We Liberals and Social Democrats must play our part in ensuring it remains robust.