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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
Profile: Steve Webb
Steve Webb
Mr Webb is seen as part of the party's 'social liberal' wing
If there were any leadership points in internet skills, Steve Webb would be the undisputed front-runner.

Seen by many as a potential candidate of the Liberal Democrat left, he is a firm believer in using technology to connect with voters.

Mr Webb's Facebook entry has more than 1,000 "friends" on it and the 42-year-old former academic has set up an email-and-texting service that allows him to consult with hundreds of people simultaneously.

His current job within the party is to produce the Lib Dem manifesto for the next general election.

'Not very good'

Mr Webb is a genial, self-deprecating figure much-liked among Lib Dem activists, and is seen as more of a "social liberal" than a free marketeer, unlike some frontbenchers.

Elected in 1997 to represent Northavon, near Bristol, Mr Webb increased his majority in 2001 and 2005. From 2003 to 2006 he was the party's health spokesman.

Like many politicians, Mr Webb studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University, but admits on his own website: "I dropped politics after a year, because I wasn't very good at it."

But, amid the joking, Mr Webb is seen as something of an intellectual at Westminster.

A former economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, he was appointed professor of social policy at Bath University shortly before his election and has published several books and pamphlets on social security.

A Christian, he has spoken out of favour of alleviating debt in the developing world and has attended cross-party prayer groups in the Commons.

'Support'

He lists his interests as pensions and benefit issues, as well as alleviating third world debt. He has voted against ID cards, and in favour of the hunting ban.

He is also a member of the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship and says he regularly attends cross-party prayer groups in the House.

Mr Webb, who is married with two children, says he has enough support to launch a leadership bid.

Despite being well known within the party, though, he is far from being a household name.

He says: "One bizarre spin-off of being 'third favourite as next leader of the Lib Dems' is that for the first time in my life I was 'door-stepped' this morning by a camera crew... it's a bit of a shock when you stumble bleary-eyed from your flat first thing in a morning to have a bright light shining in your face.

"I dread to think what time they arrived just on the off-chance of catching me as I left."

Mr Webb must now ponder whether he wants to step more permanently into the political spotlight.



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