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Liberal Democrat of 2010

LAWS DAVID Jonathan Isaby's pick: He was a minister in the Government for less than three weeks, but in that short time David Laws rightly won huge plaudits from Conservatives for his determination to wield the axe to Labour's profligate spending and tackle the unsustainable public debts accrued by the last Government.  As he said in his own resignation letter, it was as if his whole life had been a preparation for the job of Chief Secretary, from which he was forced to resign over his use of parliamentary housing allowances to pay rent to his never-publicly-acknowledged partner. He was a natural at the Despatch Box and is the perfect embodiment of the economically liberal Liberal Democrats who are very much at home being part of a Conservative-led Coalition. Don't be surprised if he is back in government before this time next year.

CleggNickDeclaring Tim Montgomerie's pick: Nick Clegg is the first Liberal leader in seventy years to lead his party into power. As much as Cameron he made this Coalition possible. Just as Cameron used his years of opposition to "liberalise" the Tories, Clegg used his leadership to "marketise" the Liberal Democrats, pulling it somewhat away from the public sector interests that dominated the Ashdown-Kennedy era. Clegg's Orange Book instincts made his party a realistic partner for the Conservatives on economic and social policy. The Liberal Democrat leader's performance in the TV debates ensured his party ended up with enough MPs to deny David Cameron a majority. The Coalition government is built on the personal chemistry and understandings between Clegg and Cameron.

Chris Huhne Paul Goodman's pick: For sticking to his course, one would choose Nick Clegg.  For the best Ministerial start, David Laws.  For the best Ministerial replacement, and for putting his shoulder unstintingly to the wheel, Danny Alexander.  For rising within his own party, Tim Farron.  But the most successful Liberal Democrat of the year has been one of the most unlovely, Chris Huhne.  A year ago, Huhne was a spokesman for a third party.  Today, he's a fully-fledged Cabinet Minister.  He's in the Coalition, but is not (like, say, Nick Clegg) of it.  He's made no trouble for David Cameron, but has kept a certain distance from the Conservatives (without making it obvious, like Vince Cable).  He's busied himself in his Department.  He was absent for the tuition fees vote.  If the Liberal Democrats govern in Coalition with the Conservatives after the next election, he'll be back in the Cabinet.  If they form a Coalition with Labour, he won't be moved out of it.  If he loses his seat, he'll swan off to the World Bank or the International Panel on Climate Change or the United Nations or somewhere even bigger, to dispense platitudes on a preposterous salary.  His preoccupation with wind farms, scheme to soak consumers with higher bills, and failure to guarantee Britain's energy security thus fail to prevent him from bagging Liberal Democrat of the year.

Picture 6 Harry Phibbs' pick: David Laws is the obvious choice but I nominate his successor as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander. Not everyone was confident that the 38-year-old former spin doctor for the Cairngorms National Park would be up to the challenge of restoring the public finances to health. There is certainly a long way to go. But Alexander has exceeded expectations.


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