...although for me, this was my first in this special winter touring production.
And so to the National Liberal Club for the Ethnic Minority Election Task Force hustings with all three candidates in attendance before an audience of about thirty people.
Chris Huhne spoke first, covering a wide range of policy issues before addressing the topic of most interest to those present, how to make the elected face of the Party more representative. He was good, if not great, and was well enough received. Ming was next and, whilst a touch wooden, held the fort for classical liberalism well. I sense that he doesn't really enjoy small, intimate meetings, but again, it was a good performance.
Finally, Simon. Unlike the other two, he has great experience of issues of diversity from his own constituency (sorry, but I will never be convinced that Eastleigh or North East Fife have significant ethnic groupings within their borders), and quoted a series of statistics to establish this. He spoke with typical passion but, and this is the problem, I still fundamentally disagree as to the viability of his proposed solutions.
We then moved on to the question and answer section. The first question came from a Southwark councillor, calling for BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) only shortlists. Now I really ought to declare an interest here. I serve on the English Candidates Committee of the Party, on the London Region Candidates Committee and have been a Returning Officer for our internal selections since 1989. I fundamentally belief that restricted shortlists are illiberal and contrary to the notion of selection on merit and nothing else. I expect Simon to be in favour of quotas - he has form after all (remember Blackpool?) - but to see Chris pander to this was very disappointing. Ming, on the other hand, took the line that persuasion and leadership would be more effective and essayed a liberal philosophy that I was impressed by.
Other than that, the questions on Britishness, detentions under the 2000 Terrorism Act and institutional racism drew the sort of gut-reaction liberal responses that you might hope for and, to be honest, expect.
So, grades for the evening? A- for Ming, B- for Chris and a C+ for Simon. And I'm supporting Chris...