Why I regret supporting Ming

We were told when Ming was standing to be party leader that Ming's greatest assets were his experience and his judgment. I now believe that these were lies.

Ming has, for me, shown since his election that he lacks these.

The party has drifted in a gentle downward direction in terms of councillors and MSP's. Party membership has not picked up and the press have got it in for Ming. Ah, the press. Is that any reason to doubt him ? Well yes, in my opinion it is. Not because everything the press says is correct, far from it. However, Ming does seem slow to react, he does not have his finger on the pulse of the next generation of voters and he lacks the human touch that Charles Kennedy and Paddy had before him. Okay, so Ming is great at Foreign Affairs. This is, however, no reason to elect a party leader. The reason the press have it in for Ming is that for all his experience, he makes mistakes and does not show enough consistency.

In recent weeks we have seen just how much Ming's judgement has been out of touch.

Firstly, he should not even have considered Gordon Brown's overtures to have Lib Dems in government in Westminster. Surely he knows that this could only work if there was a joint programme of policies with clear Lib Dem input. Ming knew this was not the case but still appointed Archie Kirkwood to speak to Gordon Brown again. This showed a lack of judgment on a massive scale.

Next, Ming tried to extricate himself from the mess he had created by making a robust comment about how Liberal Democrats would not be forming any part of a Labour government. Okay, he made this statement knowing that 48 hours before he was genuinely contemplating it. But his statement was robust enough for me to believe that he meant it.

Now though, with Liberal Democrat Peers Lord Lester and Baroness Neuberger named as advisers to Gordon Brown and Shirley Williams set to follow we have Liberal Democrats working with the Labour government, something that Ming made clear this week that would not happen.

Just last Thursday Ming claimed that there was not enough of a change in direction from Brown If this is the case, why are we allowing people to work with Brown ?

So where is the leadership ? Where is the consistency ? If I can't see it and I am a party member, an activist, a former councillor, a former constituency party vice-Chairman, why should I think for one moment that any member of the electorate should see him as being consistent and meaning what he says ?

The fact that the other Lib Dem bloggers seem to be closing their eyes to this whilst the our opinion poll rating goes down the toilet (12% in one poll this week) should be deeply worrying.

I don't doubt for one moment that Ming is a decent guy doing his very best. The problem is that he lacks a campaigners intuition. He does not seem to know how ridiculous his flip flopping makes him seem with the electorate and how how Labour and Gordon Brown are using him and the Lib Dems. No wonder Labour are up in the polls. People think you can vote Labour and get the bits of the Lib Dems they like thrown in for free !

So I admit it, I made a mistake in voting for Ming Campbell. The biggest mistake I could make now is keeping quiet whilst the party carries on in this awful slide to oblivion. Something must be done now. Some in the party no doubt believe success in the Ealing Southall by-election might give us a bounce. Certainly the Lib Dems are the clear challengers to Labour, but would a win just be papering over the cracks.

It's time for people to stand up and be counted. We read about senior Lib Dem MP's and Peers being angry with Ming, yet all we get is rumour. We need someone to put their head above the parapet and be counted. I'm sure I will get plenty of flak for writing this, being disloyal is not in my nature. However, sometimes, you know you are just saying what others are muttering. For all our sakes, it is time for Ming to go !

Update: Iain Dale has kindly linked to this story. I must make clear that although Norman Lamb is a friend of mine, I have not discussed this article or Ming's recent blunders with him at all.

Further update: Paul Walter's excellent Liberal Burbling's blog gives an excellent critique of what I have written here and offers an alternative viewpoint.


Anonymous said...

The 'coup' which removed Charles Kennedy was one of the most damaging and badly handled affairs the party has ever had to endure. I didn't vote for Ming at all but I am committed to whichever leader we have. He is widely credited with having sorted out the party's internal workings - that comes from MPs I have met, not just the press - and we remain pretty much where we were.

It would be a fatal error to emulate the Tories in chucking out a leader just because we're not 20% ahead in the polls. Look at the state they're in - no nearer to power than they were ten years ago.

The current very fluid political situation calls for calm heads and Ming's got one of those.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree, in that Ming just simply doesn not have the necessary qualities in a leader of a political party. Yes, he may have made valuable contributions from the Foreign Affairs brief, but he has allowed the party to slide in the polls and has reinforced that age-old stereotype of liberals as useless, indecisive and ineffective.

I was calling for Ming's replacement way back in March as the below post demonstrates:

Of all my chief complaints with Ming's style of leadership, none of them appear to have been addressed and the parliamentary party had better get its act together and sort things out before things get messy, a la Kennedy.

neil craig said...

When Ming was standing for leader I blogged

"In conversation, last Sunday down the pub with a journalist friend, he asked me if I had ever met Ming. When I said no he said he had and
"He's an ......, with no ideas of his own."
I cannot confirm this I merely report it but it seems a bad sign for a leader."

My friend appears to have been justified.
I also accused him of lying to Parliament to support genocide - a charge which has never been disputed.

Anonymous said...

Lib Dems are clearly panicing because of the late poll figures. Still, I wonder if anybody else would have done better than Ming in a situation, where Conservatives have convinced the media and electors that they have really changed (though they have not) and Labour has a new leader, who gets the full attention of the media. This leads to a bipolarisation, and unfortunately the Lib Dems are going to pay the price, no matter who's on the charge. But things can still change, if Lib Dems will succeed in the coming by-elections.

David Anthony said...

I think this must go down as a keynote blog. Interesting stuff.

With a possible election in the Autumn, do you really want a change of leader at this point or have the party waited too long?

Unknown said...

David, its the shooting yourself in the foot syndrome that Ming has. He could and should ahve ruled out working with Labour straight away. No ifs, buts of secret discussions. Not yes, maybe, talks, no, then a clear no, followed by well, perhaps some Lib Dems can ?

It is all so avoidable.

Letterman said...

Cough, cough... I've been banging on about what a massive useless berk Ming is for some time now, I even wrote a piece for Lib Dem Voice about his useless appearance on Question Time. I didn't vote for Ming but I agree whole heartedly with your sentiment.

To wit and wisdom: 'The 'coup' which removed Charles Kennedy was one of the most damaging and badly handled affairs the party has ever had to endure.'

That's because the coup was largely orcastrated by Ming who, as most people can see, couldn't organise his own sock drawer. A large part of the fiasco with Charles Kennedy was because he wouldn't step down and no one would stand against him. If one of those things happened this time it would be much less chaotic. Besides all this, most people I know that voted for Ming voted for him because they thought he'd step down in time for the next election to make room for some younger talent - now is the time to do that, the other 2 parties are gearing up for a 2008 election whilst our Peers are jumping into bed with Brown - its ridiculous.

Barrie Wood said...

I didn't even bother putting Ming as choice number 3 ! But, parties that change their leaders too often are like football teams who change their managers - success rarely follows.

I should know I'm a Nottingham Forest fan !@gmail.com

Realistically we've got Ming until the next GE - the time for analysis will be after that - for good or for ill !

Anonymous said...

Have posted on this story - feel free to comment.

Anonymous said...


So many of us said all of this at the time of the leadership election but none of you listened and now it's too late. I suppose you could say the party got what it deserved for its arrogant and foolish support of Ming.


Anonymous said...

Nich, the degree of open honest comment coming from you in recent weeks has made this blog well worth reading as it has moved away from the near rabid stuff following the "party line".

The item above hits the nail on the head and actually is not welcome at all to the Conservatives who would rather Ming stays in place.

The truth is that Ming has been mates with Gordon for years and has muddied the gap between them so much that Gordon felt it right to grab some Lib Dems.

Anonymous said...

Nich - this is a well written and veyr brave blog post which marks you out as one of the most decent and serious LibDems and LibDem bloggers out there. You desserve huge praise for this and I hope nobody uses it for mischief making. I hope that if I ever feel as strongly about my leader then I will have the guts to do the same.

Anonymous said...

Gordon's grab for some LDs does not reflect the relationship between him and Ming. If you think back to 1997, this is exactly what Blair tried to do, though happily it failed and Paddy was 'pushed' before he had the chance to agree to any deal.

Classic politics: try to defeat your enemy but if that fails, try to bring them into the tent. Labour and the Tories fear us as we erode support for them across the country.

What Gordon did is not rocket science or a 'Scottish Deal', its just dirty old politics.

Paul Walter said...

Thank you for linking to my posting on this Nich - I didn't expect it.

Anonymous said...

Would we better of by now under a huhne or hughes leadership?? I suspect chris would have been pilloried in the press for being inexperienced and too policy-wonkish, and Simon would have been a disaster...give ming his due, he may be something of a 'caretaker' leader with an old fashioned lawyer's style, but he's worled phenomenaly hard to resore the party's position after last years debacle (and the creeping neglect of policy and organisational issues which characterised Kennedy's leadership).