Sunday, June 11, 2006

 

Has Ming's lack of Charisma already sunk him?

The gloss came off Sir Ming Campbell's leadership so rapidly he scarcely had time to enjoy its lustre. Following in the wake of a man whom he had severely criticised for poor performance and an election campaign characterised by multiple embarrassments, Ming could ill afford the dismal ratings he achieved at PMQs. His score list of initiatives moreover looked no better than his excessively tippling predecessor. As I had always admired Ming's authoritative mastery of his foreign affairs brief, I am pleased for him that, after his first uneasy 100 days, things are, perhaps, looking up. Though I am by no means confident they will continue to do so.

His question to Blair last Wednesday regarding prisoner 'renditions' was delivered confidently and caught the Despatch Box Master just a shade off balance. Then came his major new initiative presented as a tax cutting idea. The Sunday Times in its leader today offers a guarded welcome: it would not reduce the overall burden of taxation; it suggests new green taxes on pollution to pay for the proposed 2p reduction in the standard rate of income tax; and while ending the 50 pence in £ tax rate for those earning over £100K, it threatens to hit 'the very wealthy in an as yet unspecified way.' Th ST thinks the mega rich will fly like startled birds to tax havens at the merest rustle of predatory tax moves but thinks the 'green taxes' idea, quarantined since the Fuel tax crisis of Septmeber 2000, might now be more acceptable to voters.

Writing opposite the leader page, Michael Portillo, reckons paying for tax cuts via a green levy is 'wholly incredible, of course' and rather pours cold water on Ming's relaunch by stating that 'Charisma is the currency of politics today. A leader who lacks it cannot be redeemed by a clever manifesto.' Nor does he think mere policies impress the public as they are now so sceptical they don't believe 'what they are promised'.

This is perhaps an overly cynical view: voters do listen to policy proposals I feel sure, and what parties offer up in the political marketplace of policy ideas do swing votes I also feel sure. However, the most charismatic Conservative politician of his day- until Cameron arrived- is probably right on his other point. Ming just does not cut it in the present state of British politics. I personally thought and hoped he would- he is a decent and thoughtful man- but his appearance as someone much older than his own 65 years and his dramatic loss of confidence in the wake of his accession to the leadership, suggest he will struggle in the years leading up to 2009 along with his party's fortunes.

Which is a pity as I agree with the ST that green levies are now virtually practical politics. People will moan and lament when faced with extra costs to fly abroad but their awareness of the danger the planet is now in is such that they will pay up without blockading either airports or the Treasury. I also suspect that while Ming's initiative will quickly fade away, either the Tories or the government will eventually leap upon it and make it their own.

Comments:
I think you are right - it will be interesting to see if Miliband announces some type of review into a similar idea later in the year.

PS - I have listed you in my top 10 of Labour/left of centre blogs (please take it as a complement and not an insult)
 
Many thanks Mike- it's an honour to be so mentioned.
 
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