Friday, September 22, 2006


Ming Makes the Grade

I'm pleased Ming managed to cut it with his conference speech. Earlier in the week strains with Charles Kennedy, his bibulous predecessor, showed when a possible symbolic handshake was vetoed, apparently by Kennedy himself. It will take a little longer for the two Scots to make their peace. Then there was the 'young lovelies' photoshot on the beach which merely sharpened up the impression of Ming's appearance as someone who has aged rather faster than one might expect of a former Olympic athlete. So he had some ground to make up.

Simon Hoggart has sone fun at Ming's expense today. 'Ming the Movie' was a mistake as any video presentation in such situations tend to be; I recall Ronld Reagan doing something similar at one of the Republican conventions and I thought it bombed (mind you the audience didn't think so- maybe that's part of the difference between 'us' and 'them'). But, as Hoggart points out, the audience here were desperate to love what Ming did- not as in IDS's choreographed shocker in 2004 but in a more responsible and convincing way. His jokes were dire, but as his his platitudes began to hit the spot for delegates, they began to give him that visceral, gut roar that is evidence an audience really like what they are getting. By the end everything he said was received with joyful acclaim- though I thought his words on improving public services would have to be vastly improved if votes and not cheers were the object.

He had probably had coaching in speaking to big audiences as I thought his hand movements were more convincing than hitherto; though Hoggart's suggestion that the raised arms in the air gesture at the end reminded him of 'the weekly class in an old folk's home' was, while witty, a bit unjustified. As the roar rose I was waiting for the rallying cry of David Steel to 'go back to your constituencies and prepare for government' but instead we got the more realistic vision of directing the party 'towards government'. But Ming made it; the dangerous rapids of the conference successfully navigated. He'll make it now until the next election but I imagine Nick Clegg is already mentally drafting his first conference speech as party leader. It can't be that far away.

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