Criticising Ming Campbell is, in his words "Idle chatter from an occasional dissident". If only it were true.
I, like many others, tempered my criticism of Ming in the run up to the phoney election because we knew that speaking out loud on this issue would affect the party. Now, with the phoney election out of the way, we need to return to the issue at hand, and that is whether Ming Campbell is the best person to lead us in to the general election in 18 months time.
if we are saying that he is, then what does it say about the Liberal Democrats as a party. We have a leader who had great qualities, but does not command the respect of the public, is seen as ineffective, and lacks the political sense to be able to judge the country's and party's mood on the Euro reform treaty, working with Labour and a host of other issues.
Are we really that short of talent that we don't have anyone better ? For that is what the Ming supporters are saying. We have nobody better able to lead the party in to an election.
If they are correct, if Ming's supporters are right, then we ought to seriously consider the way we vet our candidates and re-evaluate the way the party recruits because we must, absolutely must, ensure we have MP's who can command public respect, are politically savvy, but most importantly, are able to inspire the general public, and it is this area that Ming sadly fails in.
Ming today claimed that speculation surrounding him is " idle chatter from an occasional dissident", but the problem is that we have fewer and fewer dissidents because most people, unlike me, are reacting to Ming by turning their affections to another political party. They don't speak out against Ming because the 5% frop in the party's support in the polls means that they are speaking highliy of the new party they support, not harking back to the Lib Dems.
I know, I will get lots of abuse and I will, like last time have some very literate big wig in the party write a fully researched piece of text that points out that I am wrong in every part of what I have said. However, do the opinion polls really tell us lies ? Were the Scottish and Welsh elections really wrong ? Were the local elections proof enough ?
Anyone who argues that the Tories failed to improve their position because they replaced Duncan-Smith with Howard was obviously not involved in fighting the Tories at the last election. IDS was, like Ming, respected and well liked. On a personal level people tell me too that is a real gentleman. However, the Tories knew he was leading them to a worse defeat than in 2001, so they acted.
For all the Lib Dem success at the last general election, we should remember we only won 62 seats. If we fail to do better than that, and the polls and recent elections suggest we won't, then we need a leader in charge now who can improve our position.
Some in the Liberal Democrats may want the press to go away and stop running stories about Ming, but the fact that Ming has had to launch yet another comeback and we are still struggling in the polls shows the press are not simply making things up. there is a problem, there is a boil, but nobody has the guts to lance it for fear of the pain.