Ming Campbell - The Lib Dems IDS ?
The Lib Dems' IDS - that's the view of a crowing Marcus Wood, Torbay's Tory PPC. Amazing how one set of local election results can bring out an arrogance from the Tories.
Now, I placed Ming 3rd out of 3 candidates in the leadership election, but I would firmly counsel against him being replaced at the top of the party.
Yes, I do think Ming doesn't appear to connect that well with the floating or soft Lib Dem inclined voter. He does seem a bit wooden and charisma free. I can't envisage him going down well on a Newcastle council estate or in the area I live in, a disadvantaged area of Torquay.
However, it is not the perception of his personality he should be judged on. He has continued to be consistently Liberal albeit in keeping with what Tony Greaves called the right-wing tradition of the old Liberal Party. He was, is and will continue to be Liberal. Compare that with what Cameron used to say and what he's articulating now.
The loss of council seats and disappointing results in Scotland and Wales owes more to the fact that for the first time in a generation or more the Tories are once again electorally competitive [in England at least], in a way they were largely not under IDS, Hague or Howard. It had to happen eventually, sadly. Basically CK had a much easier ride and the fortune of a pivotal issue that harvested votes beyond our core support. So arguably the combination of lacklustre Tories and a once in a generation prime issue that separated us from the opposition should have delivered more, particularly with Labour also running out of political capital on other issues too. So it is against these elements that we should consider the Campbell record. Maybe the much lauded Charles Kennedy actually under-achieved ?!
Leading a party is a bit like being head coach or a manager of a football team. It takes time to shape a team and get results. Many in the LDs probably got complacent and expected a steady but inexorable rise in support to continue, especially at the Tories expense. Certainly too many changes at the top and disunity can only lead to the Lib Dems becoming the Manchester City of politics. I'm still slightly hopeful about the play-offs, so I didn't proffer the example of my beloved Nottingham Forest !
So we need to accept that we all as a party and not just Menzies Campbell need to raise our game. The Tories are back, get used to it, but if we hold our nerve and campaign on those issues where we are strong we can hold our own. It should be Cameron under scrutiny, but eventually the policy commissions and working parties will have to come up with at least SOME firm commitments and with the passing of time the vacuity of 'Dave' may well become even more apparent.
Already we have Green Tax Switch versus a big fat zero. On crime, LD councils have implemented innovative ideas and that compares with what exactly from the Tories ? Localism is one of the Tories 'new ideas', but is something that LDs embrace instinctively rather than for the sake of party 'rebranding'.
All in all let's get behind Ming and recognise that the political terrain is more challenging. Lets not make it harder by being seen as lukewarm in support of our party leader. Dwelling on past successes will get us nowhere ! Ming is far from the IDS of the Lib Dems ! Cameron may well prove to be the Tories Blair though !