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What about a woman to follow Ming?

May 30th, 2006

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    Could one of these be Britain’s 2nd woman party leader?

With the speculation about Ming’s future as Lib Dem leader it’s inevitable that people should be thinking about who could succeed him. So far the main focus has been on Nick Clegg (8/11), who did not do his chances any good the other day after being over-heard discussing Ming’s failings in a mobile phone call.

As well as Clegg in the betting are David Laws (4/1), Ed Davey (5/1) who in January all made the questionable decisions to stand aside and not oppose Ming. Chris Huhne, who did run, is also at 5/1.

    But what about the women? Could one of the new crop of female MPs who’ve come to the Commons in the past three years after beating Labour have the bottle, Margaret Thatcher-style, to take on the men?

First one there – from right to left- is Sarah Teather – who came onto the national stage following her by-election spectacular in Brent East in September 2003. That she beat Labour then and went on to hold the seat at the General Election was no mean achievement. When she arrived she was the youngest MP and being just four feet ten inches tall she shares the honour, along with Hazel Blears, of the being shortest member of the House.

Teather showed she was prepared to take risks when she played a key part in Kennedy’s departure being the co-author of the letter threatening to resign her front bench position if the former leader carried on. Her betting price is 14/1.

In the centre picture is Lynne Featherstone who pulled off the second most sensational result a year ago in Hornsey and Wood Green when she over-turned a Labour majority of 10,614 by a margin 2,395 votes.

Lynne showed she was not going to be cowed by the party hierarchy when she played a key part in Chris Huhne’s campaign. But for this she would probably have been given a more prominent role in the party by Ming. In her 50s she’s the oldest of the three and was shortlisted in the “Rising Stars” category of this year’s Channel 4 political awards.

On the right is Julia Goldsworthy (14/1) who took Falmouth and Camborne and shadows the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. She’s starting to impress a lot of people but being only 27 years old is really far too young.

A great advantage all three have got is that they will be facing Labour opposition in their constituencies next time – a task that should be easier than those defending against the Tories.

Of the three Featherstone seems to have the most immediate potential, is more mature, and you could imagine her having the presence, sharpness and humour to cope with PMQs. She would certainly put a spark back into her party.

Mike Smithson






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