Monday, October 08, 2007

Stephen Tall: "Deluded to the point of mental incapacity"

There is an odd post by Stephen Tall on Lib Dem Voice.

He begins by quoting from this morning's Guardian:
there are now also questions over the fate of the Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ming Campbell, 66, who has failed to push up his party’s fortunes in the opinion polls in recent months. He was chosen in 2006 to provide a safe pair of hands after Charles Kennedy had to resign - but he also has younger MPs who are keen to take the job. …
One Lib Dem MP said last night: ‘This election decision is going to have big ramifications for us all. We will have to take a good hard look at our own party, now the prospect of an autumn poll has receded, to think about where we want to be in 18 months’ time.'
As Stephen says, there is bound to be speculation of this sort now that Gordon Brown has ruled out a general election until 2009. What puzzles me is his own take on the situation.

He says:
My belief is that the party would be deluded to the point of mental incapacity if it were to attempt to force unwillingly from office a second leader in a row. There will be those who disagree - according to the polls, they are a minority, but they exist - and think Ming is a drag on the national party’s popularity.
But isn't it possible to agree with both these positions? To believe that Ming's leadership has not proved a great success, but also to believe that getting rid of him will cause more damage to the party? That is pretty much my view, for one.

I am also puzzled that Stephen raises the possibility of Ming "doing a John Major" and submit himself to another leadership election. As John Major demonstrated beyond doubt, such an action would be a sign of weakness not strength and would solve nothing.

A better approach to the next 18 months is offered by an article by Simon Titley in the current Liberator - as he helpfully reminds us in the comments on Stephen's posting.

Simon concludes:
The basic problem with the party is not Ming but its strategy of incrementalism, its failure to cement the allegiance of a core vote, its failure to create a clear brand and its failure to engage effectively in the battle of ideas. Changing the leader will not necessarily solve any of these problems, therefore most of the internal criticism of Ming is misplaced.

But Ming has a duty as leader to leave the party in a better state than he found it. He must show that a process for addressing the fundamental problems is underway otherwise the grumbling will grow.

3 comments:

Stephen Tall said...

Thank you for the headline, Jonathan, I shall treasure it!

I was saving my "deluded" scorn for those who think *both* that Ming is a drag on the party's popularity, *and* we should therefore get rid of him to make ourselves more popular.

My point on 'doing a John Major' is that the party / Ming simply reasserting he's the leader and here to stay is no longer enough - the media is going to bang on about it regardless of the reality (as we saw at conference). That needs a good, hard think.

As I freely acknowledge in the posting, re-standing for the leadership is hardly an option, not least because (unlike the Tories) it would have to be a full membership ballot, which is way too cumbersome for a vote of confidence.

I agree Simon's article tackles the bigger issues facing the party very well (though I disagree with some of it).

But the issues he identifies aren't ones which will be dominating the headlines in the next couple of weeks.

Hiding behind anonymity said...

There is no problem with Ming as a leader internally. He would make a great president, and would have made a great leader when CK was elected if his health had been better. But shit happens. He is now too old for the public perception, whether that is just or not. Simon is right about incrementalism. But I would rather be leading a charge - whether incremental or all out lead by somebody scoring +20 than -6, and Ming is never going to score +20

Charlotte Gore said...

But isn't it possible to agree with both these positions? To believe that Ming's leadership has not proved a great success, but also to believe that getting rid of him will cause more damage to the party? That is pretty much my view, for one.

Spot on. Glad you drew attention to Simon's article too!