Con-Dem Nation,  Gordon MacMillan,  UK Politics

Simon Hughes wants Lib Dems to shadow government

There’s more trouble brewing for the Con-Dems. Simon Hughes, who looks like he will easily win the deputy leadership race after Vince Cable stepped down, wants Lib Dems to take on shadow roles as part of efforts to ensure that the party retains its identity.

The Guardian reports that he has put forward plans for the party to have independent spokespeople shadowing “every” government department “to ensure that the party’s centre-left progressive identity is not buried in the coalition”.

It’s a provocative throw down from Hughes who is raising the flag for the party’s left, but what a beautiful muddle it will create. Lib Dem back benchers will be shadowing fellow party members who are also members of the government. And then there will be the Tories shadowed by their coalition partners.

Hughes said that the new coalition had changed the whole dynamic of parliament and that the party needed to “get our act together to make sure our voice is heard”. You would think by the way he talks that some people in the party weren’t listening. Nick Clegg must be delighted. His party will be both the government and opposition. What a great ruse. This truly is the age of polycephalic politics or something.

The Bermondsey MP is up against someone called Tim Farron, the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale — who admits he is very well known in the Lake District but “I’m a bit less well known nationally”. Hughes with the support of 25 MPs already in place is very near to the 29 vote threshold he needs to win. Farron’s national recognition bid might have to wait.

Unsurprisingly, the bid by Hughes is not welcomed by all. The blog Liberal Vision for instance called Hughes wrong on just about everything (“His ’shadows and cabinet’ meeting idea makes little sense”) and questioned whether the party even needs a deputy leader.

However, one person he does have the support of is Cable himself, who told PA: “Simon is the person best placed to follow me as deputy leader and uphold the values of our party.”

Whether some in that party want a deputy leader or not they will get one and it will be Hughes. Clearly, the 25 votes he already has see a deal of merit in his ideas and that clearly includes senior figures — in the government.