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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Time for Ming to shape up

When Charles Kennedy was forced out by MPs against the wishes of the membership, they gave as their reason that the party was going nowhere. They were dissatisfied with Charles' leadership style and with the impact of his 'health' issues.

Now we have the MPs' choice as leader and yet, despite successes in Dunfermline and Bromley, our opinion poll ratings are stagnating and slipping back. Ming has made little impact with the public at large. The Parliamentary Party has effectively taken charge of our policy direction and strategy, whilst the leadership has established a lock on the party organisation irrespective of the party's democratic structures.

Ming is playing for very high stakes and in doing so has placed a great deal of his personal authority on the line. If things go wrong then there is nobody else to blame, he has made sure of that by the way he has gathered all the threads around him.

The next few months are going to be critical. In a week or two we will be publishing tax plans that have largely been drawn up by the Treasury Team. Worthy as they are, these proposals seem unfocussed and lack a clear narrative. It is my hope that once we see the full details that will change. However, it did not help that Ming felt it necessary to reveal details before the Commission had reported or the democratically-elected Policy Committee had decided whether to accept them or not.

The debate will, of course be critical but so too will Ming's performance at the Conference. We need to get some bounce in the polls out of that week in Brighton. When Simon Hughes said that Ming had until the end of the Conference season to prove himself he was absolutely right. So far the only people who appear to be totally content with the leader are the MPs. They have to realise that, important as they are, they are not the Party. Having experienced a coup de grace at the top, we are entitled to expect results. It is now time for Ming Campbell to start delivering on his promises and the expectations of success that are associated with him.
I am not panicking, what I am asking is that Ming starts to make the difference we were promised when Charles was deposed and he was elected Leader.
Babahons, I might have said the same thing about Charles Kennedy's leadership but that did not stop MPs undermining it. If you live by the sword then you have to meet the expectations you create or you will die by the sword.

Stephen Tall does have a very balanced view but this is not about the opinion poll, it is about the direction and management of the party. That of course includes opinion polls over a period of time. I have a general election to fight next May, I think if the MPs also had to fight that General Election then they might take a more urgent view of these matters.
Apollo Project, the MPs are not the only ones who stand to lose their jobs. See my previous comment. However, it is not just about jobs it is about getting the party back on course and as far as I can see we are going backwards.
Re-read the text of the post.
Stop taking party members for granted, stop using the leader's authority to short-circuit policy debates, stop taking the party to the economic right and start getting out in to the Country and making a bigger impact as leader. It is all there!
I do not believe the party is going backwards, Opinion Polls are not the only measure of how a party is faring. True I would like to see Ming have more public profile, however I have seen many initiatives coming forward from the top that I find very encouraging and much needed. I also believe we have a very strong team behind Ming.

We have always played the long game rather than being blown around by public opinion.
Peter you have a point that no leader, especially of the Liberal Democrats, can afford to take their members for granted. I have on occasion at conference been on and against the policy committees take on issues. As a result I have actually voted on the majority and minority by follwoing both approaches.

However, with reference to the tax proposals from what I have heard about them thus far I would tend to make be agree with the cat. You may well be surprised with the full body of what is being proposed. We may yet raise our badges at the same time in Brighton during that Motion.
Wow a post that turns into a whole BBC news story
David (and others), I am a Liberal Democrat not a Tory. If I am to get 100% behind the leader then he has to earn it, he does not get it as of right. That principle was well established when the Party ditched Charles Kennedy and some of the people using the media to undermine him will no doubt be deploring my open and honest expression of my own views. How things change.
Do you still agree with these comments Peter?


Good grief, does my party never learn? This article in today's Telegraph is yet another example of the behind-the-scenes briefing that undermines those of us who are fighting day-in, day-out for the Liberal Democrat principles and policies in our own community. It is precisely the sort of damaging tittle-tattle that led to the toppling of Charles Kennedy, except that this time the tittle-tattlers now appear to be running the party.
Yes, which is why I have posted openly what I consider to be a fairly balanced view on Ming's leadership. Nothing behind the scenes here.
Wow, Lib Dem Blogs have come of age today.... and you have been brave to write what you have, Peter.

However I think your comments are a bit premature , the opinion poll changes aren't exactly massive and in real elections we are doing OK.

Talking to some of my local Tories, they aren't convinced about Cameron at all. I still think there's all to play for....

Ming wasn't my first choice either but he deserves our support.

However I would like to see more .... can't think of the word ... emphasis on why a Lib Dem govt would be better than a Labour or Tory one.

Maybe that's coming....
Menzies Campbell is the best possible leader at this time of crisis in the Middle East.

Newspaper opinion poll ratings are spurious. You may not have noticed that Tories made no impact in this week's local by-elections, and that we successfully defended a seat in Norwich with an increased majority.

- Frank Little
I share many of your concerns. One of the perversities of the FPTP system is that a shift to the right by our party may well end up with fewer votes but more MPs. I guess Ming has woken up to that fact. It seems that everything Ming said during his campaign about uniting the party was nonsense - he's thrown out equidistance and jumped in with the tax-cutting orange revolutionaries.

I also fear for our party's democratic structures. Look what happened to the Labour party - taken over by the Blairite clique. Is this our fate too? Presenting policies on Focus leaflets as a fait accompli when they haven't even been finalised or voted on! I serve on a working party where the entire paper has been handed over to party hacks to draft.

Forget bogus calls for "unity". The leadership needs bringing in line in September or else our party democracy will be history.
I try to be even-handed about this.

I thought (and I'm pretty sure also said on the record) that the elected members who hamstrung the party by agitating in public to remove Kennedy were a bunch of self-indulgent twats who should have been put in a box and had the lid nailed firmly down.

I'm quite happy, in a spirit of fairness, to extend the same courtesy to people who haven't learned the lesson of those days.
Panakea, if you read this blog more often you would know that I do not write for effect. I write what I feel and think. Sorry if that does not fit into your cynical view of politicians.
Seeing as we are all in the habit of passing judgement on Mings record thus far, lets look at his record:

1. Dunfermline By-election - Victory with a huge swing!
2. Some losses but also some good gains whilst consolidating our by-election victories in the English Local Elections 2006.
3. Bromley and Chislehurst - Swing of 17% and narrowly missing victory by 633 votes.
4. A refocussed Parliamentary pary with sensible tax proposals - ditching the rediculous proposal of 50% tax on high incomes.
5. A sensible and balanced approach to Foreign Policy and our relationship with the US.

It is becoming more and more apparent to people that Sir Menzies Campbell is the voice of reason in Westminster.

We should certainly not judge Ming on the basis of one opinion poll in the Guardian, for that would be nothing more than self-defeatist and the Liberal Democrats are better than that.

We are supposed to be the party of Optimism aren't we? A party that offers hope to millions of voters who now realise that neither the Labour Party nor the Conservative Party listen to their views, opinions and concerns.

- Richie Northcote
(from Mike Cobley, Maryhill Libdems, Glasgow) Peter et al - like many, I had reservations about Ming but I knew that after the CK tragedy (which is what is was, no doubt about it), and the Mark Oaten imbroglio, he was basically the safe-pair-of-hands option. We`re always going to draw flack from the establishment media so Ming was the best option at a difficult moment. As for the rightward lurch - there have been some indicators of such, which does worry me as a former SDP member, although the tax threshold proposals strike me as quite creative and useful (certainly for myself, being a writer etc).

But at the moment, it seems to me that the overriding topic on which the Blair regime fails disastrously is the entire Iraq/Lebanon situation. Sure, our position since Charles took it is clear, and we`ve restated it again and again ever since. And that's the problem - despite public protest, despite criticism from MPs and in the media, the Blair galleon is sticking to its course, regardless of the death and destruction in its wake. It is not enough for us to keep reminding the public that we spoke out against the Iraq war; we now have to raise our game and up the ante. Ming should hold a press conference and announce that we consider the government's actions on Iraq and Lebanon to be against international law, and that our party if elected will hold a full public enquiry on every aspect of the UK's involvement in both the Iraq war and the Israeli attack on Lebanon. We should do this because it is the right thing to do, and because Blair is out of the country!

I have to agree with your comments about Ming.

When I hear him speak on the box he comes across as dull as ditch water.

A safe pair of hands he may be. That's all good and well if he was heading a business but in politics there has to be something special that attracts people to want to hear what a person has to say.

He's a perfect gent from the old school but he just lacks the charisma to excite people. He has no oomph about him. It has nothing to do with age but the personality of the man himself. This is bound to have a knock on effect on the party.
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