Monday, July 31, 2006

Menzies Campbell and the spin doctors

I have an article on Guardian Unlimited looking at the selling of Sir Menzies Campbell. I take the line that we should beware of trying to sell him as something he is not.

A couple of acknowledgements...

I was going to say an ironic "thanks a bunch" to Peter Black for having his comments on Ming's leadership reproduced on the Guardian's Comment is Free blog over the weekend. I had planned to write about those internal changes too. On reflection my article is better for being more tightly focused on the PR angle, so the thanks are genuine now.

I was convinced that I coined "Let Ming be Ming" back in June, but I find that Alex Wilcock used it as early as February during the leadership campaign. So respect to him.


Anonymous said...

Please not Gavin Grant....last time I saw him he came to UKC trying to force UKC Liberals to affiliate to his ULS & not NLYL.

Gavin Whenman said...

Isn't "Let Ming be Ming" just a reference to The West Wing ("Let Bartlet be Bartlet")?

Jonathan Calder said...

Not in my case, but you will have to ask Alex.

Alex Wilcock said...

Thanks for the plug, Jonathan!

And it was indeed, Gavin. I didn't mention it on that particular piece (it was full enough as it was), but I did plug the episode on my little tribute to The West Wing when the final episode aired in the States. Lots of bloggers mourning it for the UK this weekend; funny how no-one even noticed the last episode of its lacklustre 'replacement' Commander in Chief creeping out, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I think you're unfair on Ming regarding the watching dancing on TV anecdote.

As was pointed out in comments on Iain Dale's blog at the time, Dancing on Ice was on TV at the right time, and given the story was retold second-hand it's hardly surprising if the TV show's name got mangled into something else.

Anonymous said...

Can I be the first to coin the phrase "On a Ming and a Prayer"?

Paul Linford said...

I take the line that we should beware of trying to sell him as something he is not.

Presumably you think the Lib Dems shouldn't be marketing him as a potential Prime Minister, then?

Anonymous said...

Ming can no longer be Ming unless he can find a way to couple that with presenting an inspiring figure to non lib - dem voter (especially those like me who abandoned the party for the Greens because there was too much pussyfooting around instead of attacking the Thatcherite policies of Blair and go. The lib dems have been presented with opportunity after opportunity and have blown them all because libdem leaders are so determined to see the value of everybody's point of view.
As neither main party is going to grant PR without a fight, the third party needs an absolute bastard who will put the boot in at every opportunity.

Rob F said...

I enjoyed your piece, though the problem with the "let Ming be Ming" line is that there are doubts in some peoples minds over whether the electorate will vote for that.

Indeed, in the piece you wrote you yourself seemed to struggle to identify the substance of what letting Ming be Ming would mean - you seem to suggest he should carry on exclusively being known as a tremendous foreign policy specialist? I actually think that's a credible role for him. He's not so great on domestic policy, maybe we should just accept that. He's not great at shaking hands and kissing babies - so let's put the super-sized diamonds away and try something different.

But I disagree with you (as I would!) on the implied notion that he should be marketed as a jag driving speed chaser.

As a party, I increasingly believe we need to out-green the Greens to stop them taking away just enough of our votes in wards across the country next year to cost us a serious number of seats. In the current political climate, now is not the time to be seen to be an environmentally incorrect ageing boy racer.

Ming has turned giving up the Jag in to a political asset - the circumstances in which he gave it up have largely been forgotten by the media.

And finally, the notion of a "trustworthy lawyer" is a contradiction in terms in the mind of most people, and I believe portraying him as yet another political lawyer would be electoral suicide.

"Let Ming be Ming" is an easy soundbite - a bit too easy. While we shouldn't be so stupid as to portray him as something he very clearly isn't (fish and chips eating trash telly watcher), I do feel needs to carve out a more approachable persona for himself - but only if it's genuine. This will become easier as he gets more used to the role.

I fear very much the notion that we should let him exude gravitas. One man's "gravitas" is a good many more people's "aloof toff" in my opinion.