Friday, October 12, 2007

Ming Campbell: Contrasting views from the regional press

Two columnists have taken markedly different views today of the future of Sir Menzies Campbell's leadership of the Liberal Democrats.

Writing in the East Anglian Daily Times, Graham Dines says:

With no election in prospect for at least 18 months, will Lib Dem MPs put pressure or Sir Ming to stand down? Since he took over, the party at best has been treading water and at worse appearing to be directionless.

But while Sir Ming's speech in Brighton to his party's conference did not galvanise the voters, the Lib Dems would be - to borrow a phrase from the late Lord Hailsham - “stark raving bonkers”­ to replace him ...

It seems, however, that the whisperers in the parliamentary party are still putting it about that Sir Ming - who will be in Mildenhall tomorrow to address the Lib Dems' eastern region conference - is not up to the job.

“It is pathetic,” senior backbencher Mike Hancock said in a radio interview this week. “The people who have persistently done it are some of the people who shouted loudest to get Ming into the job.

“It is a shower of people who haven't got the backbone or the balls to come out to say it to his face and to the party. The one thing that Ming has shown over the last six months is that he is not prepared to take this perpetual backbiting and snidey remarks behind his back.”

Someone throw a bucket of cold water over Mr Hancock, please.

Meanwhile, in the Yorkshire Post, Adam Davison takes a very different view. Billed as "a political analyst and former Parliamentary assistant to Harrogate MP Phil Willis," he writes:

Sir Ming will be under no illusions about the difficulties that could lie ahead if he chose to stay on, especially when you consider that he will be nearing 70 at the next election.

So he must demonstrate his own ability to take the hard decisions that matter by showing maturity and a humbleness which is non-existent in our other leaders, announce his resignation and then play his part in a much-needed reinvigorating leadership campaign.

I would not expect Ming to take this decision lightly, but there is no doubt that he must make it quickly. We have seen in the last couple of months how dragging one's heels can be damaging and the party needs acts of strong leadership, first in an act of great humility; secondly, in the announcement of key figures, such as Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg, their intentions to stand, and most importantly, through the setting out of a strong vision for a liberal Britain.

The leadership election must be a campaign of ideas setting out how each contender would seek to take the party forward through strategy and policy and finally start to address the question of what place the Liberal Democrats have in modern British politics.

Sir Ming has failed to be the king he hoped he could be, but his role as kingmaker could yet be his defining moment in the history of Liberalism.

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