After perhaps the quietest leadership race in recent political history the Spectator/Threadneedle Newcomer of the Year has not disappointed us. I thought Nick Clegg would win by a mile
: in the end his 510 votes are testimony what was (in my view) a superior campaign by Huhne (whom I underestimated). But the real winner was Vince “killer” Cable, who has had just enough limelight to shine and not so much that he’s had time to flop. He’s an economic expert on the economics brief: it shows what happens in the rare occasion where politicians have some expertise in their given area. There’s talk that Huhne would have moved Cable. I agree with Andrew Rawnsley
that this would have been madness. He’s earned a senior role in the party. No one else lands punches like him.
The Tories are more relaxed about Clegg than I’d be in their shoes. “We need the LibDems to be irrelevant,” a Shadow Cabinet member told me last week, “And Clegg will oblige. He’s a mummy’s boy, not a fighter.” Now, votes are cast so early in the LibDem leadership race that Clegg had little incentive to fight. He may yet surprise us. We have not yet seen what he's made of.
When I met Clegg to record his acceptance ahead of our awards lunch (he was in Newcastle on the day for the head-to-head debate with Huhne) we spoke about the rather embarrassing revival in his party’s poll ratings – from 11% to 20%. He joked that the LibDems were like the Italian economy: doing best when no one is in charge. It’s now up to him to disprove his own theory.