Having first sounded warm about it, Ming went on to say that we should be careful because in a rural constituency like his a car was a necessity not a luxury. There is something in that, but all the same my heart sank. It is precisely the argument you used to hear Liberal MPs using 30 years ago when we were a tiny party representing a few Celtic fringe constituencies. Have we really not moved on since then?Judging by David Walter's Pravda-like account of the South-West hustings on the Campbell people's blog, Ming the Merciless is now making this opposition central to his campaign:
There's nothing wrong with winning rural seats. But can anyone map a successful future for the Liberal Democrats that does not involve our continuing to become more of an urban party?
In the question and answer session, Ming had the advantage of being the only leadership candidate with a rural seat. Devon and Cornwall contain some of the most sparsely populated constituencies in the country. The lack of affordable housing for local people is a huge issue. When Ming spoke about house prices in St Andrews in his own constituency driving local people away, he struck a real chord.
Over one of the few issues which divides the leadership candidates, he was also more in tune with local opinion. He pointed out that raising the duty on petrol would be unfair to people in rural areas who have no alternative but to drive cars.