Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sir Menzies Campbell knifed by LibDems

He was assassinated, and any attempt to spin otherwise is understandable, but does not have the virtue of being true. Ming's problem was that he wasn't delivering either in terms of punch in the Commons or polls in the country. That didn't lead to a delegation of men and/or women in grey suits, but it did translate into a palpable lack of support from the Liberal Democrat parliamentary team. All this business about age wouldn't have mattered if Ming had being doing the business. Because he wasn't, and because at least some of his colleagues were pushing them the press started to raise the leadership question, but there should be no doubt that a bit of loyalty from LibDem MPs would have meant that there was no question in the first place.

The news coverage yesterday was most instructive. Vince Cable, Ming's deputy leader told the British media that Campbell had not talked to him about the leadership question, despite admitting earlier in the day that the matter was 'under discussion'. This does not at least suggest close and harmonious working relationship at best and at worst identifies at least one set of prints on the murder weapon. Then there was Sandra Gidley, LibDem MP for Romsey and sitting on a majority of 125. She didn't even bother to disguise her glee and the turn of events, and this with the bloke resigned barely an hour before. Finally there was an old-school MP phoning in from a parliamentary delegation to Moscow, who was pretty scathing about the way his colleagues had behaved. So, platitudes and attempts to blame it all on press ageism aside, it was an engineered departure with the one proviso that Ming might just have pre-empted them all by going a bit sooner than expected.

What now? Well we have the fascinating spectacle of a leadership contest to look forward to. The question is if that automatically translates into a bounce in the polls for the LibDems. On that I am not so sure. There is some evidence, based on emails and texts coming into various news organisations that the latest turn of events has not gone down that well with the public, so that has to be fixed. Then some lucky man or woman has to lead this bunch into a general election, now knowing exactly the level of loyalty they can expect if things don't do to plan. Sometimes, the swift removal of a leader doesn't always do it. After all, as far as the LibDems are concerned this is the second time in eighteen months.

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