In amongst all the comment and reaction to the Lib Dem poll surge in recent days I have seen a comment made several times which amounts to:
"Yes, it's all very well that Nick Clegg and Vince Cable are impressive but what about the rest of the Lib Dem front-bench? That's where they'll be found wanting."
The problem with this is that it is a load of rubbish. Let's just have a look at some of the members of our front-bench:
Chris Huhne, Home Affairs Spokesman: Chris is a great media and Commons performer. He has run for the leadership twice and only narrowly missed out in 2007. He's been a journalist and is a trained and experienced economist as well has having been an MEP for several years where he was very influential. I am certain that Huhne would make a much better Home Secretary than the gaffe prone Chris Grayling for example.
Norman Lamb, Heath Spokesman: Norman is a very impressive politician. I have seen him speak on a number of occasions and he is always totally on top of his subject. He is widely admired across the house and at the 2005 election was able to turn his North Norfolk marginal (483 votes ahead of the Conservatives) into one of our safest seats with a majority of over 10,000 (at the expense of the Conservative candidate Iain Dale) which shows just how impressed his constituents have been with him since 2001. Compares very well against the unconvincing Andy Burnham and the Tory Andrew Lansley who like Grayling has been no stranger to controversy.
Dr Steve Webb, Work and Pensions Spokesman: Steve has been a professor of social policy at Bath University and like Norman Lamb has taken what was a seemingly unwinnable seat and with patience and dedication turned it into what for us is a safe seat over the course of a few parliaments. Having seen Steve speak and also having guested with him on a Radio 5 show last year at conference I have seen first hand just how adept he is as a politician and his depth of knowledge both of his subject area and policy in general. I am confident that he would be good in any role and is one of our rising stars.
Tim Farron, Food and Rural Affairs Spokesman: Tim is a force of nature. He is renowned within the party for being out on the doorstep in his constituency of Westmorland and Lonsdale almost constantly! His seat is an ultra-marginal (267 votes in it) but nobody sensible would bet against him retaining it this time round and in fact the smart money would be on him increasing his majority by some considerable distance. Tim is very impressive as a public speaker and has a natural, comedic style that you don't often find in politicians. Rather than the jokes being crowbarred in, he is actually naturally funny. Combined with his expertise in his current portfolio and his passion for his work he is definitely one to watch.
Lynne Featherstone, Spokeswoman for Youth and Equality: Lynne is another dedicated campaigner who through sheer force of will after 10 years of hard work managed to win her seat in Hornsey and Wood Green. She has wasted no time since arriving in parliament campaigning on issues and did very important work regarding the Baby P case which related to her constituency. She has always impressed me whenever I have seen her on the media or in person and is certainly one to watch for the future.
David Laws, Children, Schools and Families Spokesman: A former Vice President of JP Morgan and former policy researcher for the party, David has impressed in all the roles he has performed on the party's front-bench. A frequent and confident media performer, the Tories would love to have poached him and had them in their shadow cabinet and indeed have approached him with such an offer but have been rebuffed.
Sarah Teather, Spokeswoman for Housing: I didn't used to rate Sarah very highly but I now realise that is because I had not been paying attention properly. She has a natural confidence in her public speaking and is also able to inject humour in a similar way to Tim Farron. She has spent her time in parliament since her stunning by-election win in Brent-East in 2003 in the wake of the Iraq war by campaigning on all sorts of issues including Guantanamo Bay and on behalf of Amnesty International. She was the "Baby of the House" at one point but has grown up very quickly.
And I could go on. There are lots of other impressive spokespeople both on the front-bench and also coming up close behind. People like Dr Evan Harris who has done wonderful work on evidence based policy and libel reform and who is definitely in the running for the coveted "Mark Reckonses favourite MP" slot, or Jo Swinson who despite her relative youth has impressed widely.
Couple that with the number of very impressive candidates we have in target seats up and down the country and who may well be MPs in two and a half weeks time. People like the irrepressible Bridget Fox who along with the also impressive Julian Huppert moved heaven and earth to quickly get the party to change its position on the Digital Economy Bill. Or Ed Fordham, a man who lives and breathes campaigning and who if he is not elected MP for Hampstead and Kilburn on May 6th I will eat all of my hats.
The idea that the only people we have are Nick and Vince and that the rest of our parliamentarians are a bunch of lightweights is just nonsense.