Sir Menzies Campbell resigns as Lib Dem leader
Sir Menzies Campbell has resigned as Lib Dem leader, was he pushed or did he jump? Who wielded the knife? This is the story that everyone in the media is seeking, quietly forgetting that it is the media's constant references to Ming's age and lacklustre performances which were truly responsible for forcing him out of office.
But no-one in the media wants a 3 horse race, its too difficult to report, they want a simple head to head between the Tories and Labour, the Lib Dems just represent an inconvenience as far as the news editors are concerned, only deserved of headlines when someone is going wrong, Charles Kennedy's "Drink Problem", Mark Oaten's Gay Affair, Simon Hughes' bisexual younger years, Sir Menzies' age or now his resignation. These are the Lib Dem stories which have dominated the headlines in the past 2 years. Hardly a comment has been made about policies, proposals or initiatives; theyíve certainly never made lead news items.
I was a Lib Dem member, I voted in the 2006 leadership election but since Iíve let my membership lapse, I didnít vote for Ming, I voted for Chris Huhne, so I was never satisfied with his safe and steady style, I wanted a radical leader, someone who would put real difference between the parties by outlining a radical agenda. Still Ming did preside over some very radical proposals, 4p Tax Cuts, green taxation, but he always did it in his rather calm unassuming way, it never felt big, it always felt safe, too safe perhaps for some Lib Dems members as it failed to capture the imagination of the masses.
This failure to captivate the masses has something to do with Ming's calm professional demeanour but more to do with the Media constant ageist references towards him which never gave him a change.
Ming is a victim of the ADH which is inherent in todayís society, people donít listen, they donít pay attention and they latch onto the easiest headline to digest. Typically this turns out to be "Ming is too old!" It's easy to forget we wouldnít be having this conversation if it was Sir Menzies Campbell versus Michael Howard, (both were born in 1941). But with fresh faced 40-something David Cameron, all of a sudden people can point fingers and complain Ming is past it.
Ming also made references to being a centrist, but the Lib Dems have never really fitted well into the left-right political spectrum, theyíve always existed outside that realm, plus with the Conservatives pushing towards the centre and Labour moving ever increasingly towards the right a distinct identity for the Lib Dems was getting increasingly difficult to obtain, least of all because both Labour and the Tories kept stealing key aspects of their policy proposals!
Ming's real failure was his inability to shake off the negative image the media had given him as this stereotypical old man incapable of leading a nation. Whilst this was unfair, it's his inability to deal with this unfairness and present his own image of himself to the nation which is the real reason why he was right to resign.
The Lib Dems need a leader who is going to be quirky, who will be radical and who will define himself to the media, Charles Kennedy did this to perfection, his appearances on chat shows where he displayed tremendous humour and wit endeared him to the nation and it was on the back of his personal popularity. He also had a serious side and his personal problems aside was an excellent party leader when he was on his game. He always found a distinctive stance which set the Lib Dems apart, taxation, Iraq, civil liberties.
Don't get me wrong I'm not part of the "bring back Charles Kennedy" camp. But the next Lib Dem leader needs to be more like Charles than Ming.
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