Friday, May 12, 2006


Oh Dear! Was Ming a Mistake?

I found myself supporting Ming Campbell as leader of the Lib Dems, during their recent contest, as the steady, decent, authoritative figure who could boost their efficacy as the Blair era stumbles to a close. But now his feeble performances at PMQs seems to have caused the whispering to start up all over again. It would be foolish to leap into anything like another leadership contest and Ming, seems set fair to lead his party into the next election. But the question does arise of whether a mistake has been made. On Thursday a very infuential blog poured some trademark scorn on his attempts to land a punch on Blair and, I had to say, the video-clip evidence did seem quite damning.

Ming on foreign policy was clipped, to the point and his voice resonant with attack and passion. At PMQs he seems diffident, wholly lacking in gravitas and, frankly, a bit doddery. Even Blair turned away in contempt at the end of Ming's question last Wednesday. A judicious editorial in the Indie today sheds some balanced common sense on the matter. It recognizes the improvements being made to the party's organization but points out that there are no votes in such changes, vital as they may be. Hague brushed up party organisation but did not dent Blair's electoral appeal or garnish his own.

Performances in the House are also not noticed by most voters but the opinion of lobby jornalists and political editors is disseminated quite widely and it is vital not to appear a duffer on this important stage. Moreover, says the Indie, Ming has not advanced his party's 'distinctive agenda' losing ground to Cameron's colourful initiatives and is not leading the debate on civil liberties. It seems big speech is bruited next month and, I for one, hope Ming is in front of the mirror practising it at this very moment. With Labour fading the Lib Dems could become, with the right leadership, the recipient of substantial diverted progressive support.

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