Place That Lib Dem Face
The Newsnight high command didn't provide me with enough time last night to give you the full results of our survey of the best post-war leader of the Liberal Democrats, and its two forerunner parties, the Liberals and the Social Democrats (SDP). So here is the detail...
We managed to poll more than 100 Lib Dems here in Bournemouth, and the resulting rankings were:
1. Paddy Ashdown, Lib Dem, 1988-99
2. Jo Grimond, Liberal, 1956-67
3. Charles Kennedy, Lib Dem, 1999-2006
4. Nick Clegg, Lib Dem, 2007-
5. David Steel, Liberal, 1976-88
6. Roy Jenkins, SDP, 1982-83
7. Ming Campbell, Lib Dem, 2006-07
8. Jeremy Thorpe, Liberal, 1967-76
9. Clement Davies, Liberal, 1945-56
10. David Owen, SDP, 1983-87
Paddy Ashdown was way out in front, while Jo Grimond only very narrowly beat Charles Kennedy into third. David Owen's last place was pretty emphatic, though I don't imagine he minds that much.
We've also polled 39 political academics, members of the Elections, Public Opinion and Parties group of the Political Studies Association. Their rankings were slightly different:
1. Paddy Ashdown, Lib Dem, 1988-88
2. David Steel, Liberal, 1976-88
3. Jo Grimond, Liberal, 1956-67
4. Charles Kennedy, Lib Dem, 1999-2006
5. Roy Jenkins, SDP, 1982-83
6. Jeremy Thorpe, Liberal, 1967-76
7. David Owen, SDP, 1983-87
8. Ming Campbell, Lib Dem, 2006-07
9. Nick Clegg, Lib Dem, 2007-
10.Clement Davies, Liberal, 1945-56
So the academics take a rather more historical perspective, giving credit to David Steel, who took the party nearest to government, under the 1976-78 Lib-Lab Pact, and also to his predecessor, the flamboyant Jeremy Thorpe, who polled more than six million votes in the February 1974 election, before he was beset by personal scandal. And the academics seem to have little respect for either Nick Clegg or his predecessor Ming Campbell.
Both surveys were taken before Nick Clegg's £30 pension gaffe.
It's also interesting to note that only two of the 10 above men were English.
Next week Labour. That should be even more interesting - a case perhaps of Replace That Face.