Out With the Ming
Well he's managed to take us all by surprise. Only this morning, Deputy Leader (and now Acting Leader) Vince Cable was busy assuring everyone that the leader's position was secure - just the sort of accurate foresight we are used to from an economics spokesman. Now Vince, and Lib Dem president Simon Hughes, stands accused of wielding the knife against Sir Ming. But why stop at those two? Recent coverage from most media outlets has hardly been enthusiastic. Huhne and Clegg, the likely competitors for the succession, were busy running their leadership campaigns at the conference. And a range of Lib Dem voices have been raised against their - well, elderly - leader. Take this example from Norfolk Blogger, who adds further post-resignation thoughts here.
I heard the news whilst listening to ideas on defence and foreign affairs being debated at a political dinner this evening - a Tory one. The chairman announced that Ming had resigned, and told us that the information had come from Cable and Hughes, before pausing to wonder aloud whether the dynamic duo had actually bothered to inform Ming himself of his resignation. Ming's absence is certainly telling - while this news unfolds in London, he's back in Edinburgh, perhaps licking his wounds?
As to why Ming had to go, well, there aren't exactly a hundred theories - he was, as his own statement admits, seemingly incapable of raising the showing and profile of the Lib Dems. I'm not sure, though, that I think it's an age thing. More a dynamism thing. Ming Campbell was used, as foreign affairs spokesman for his party, to very deferential treatment from the press as the only senior politician to be able to consistently speak out against a war that the media, who predominantly supported it, quickly turned against. As leader, he was unable to translate this into the necessary charismatic vision to promote his third party. How he fitted in to a media age mastered by Blair, Brown and Cameron, and the implications of this, are fit questions for a whole thesis; in the absence of such a thing, they will be worth returning to in the coming weeks of the Lib Dem leadership battle between two much more image-friendly politicians.
BBC Online's Nick Assinder comments on the resignation here; Political Editor Nick Robinson has blogged only very lightly about this so far, perhaps reflecting the lack of information.
Oh, and it would be nice to see the comments thread take on some serious points from the various fiction characters who seem to have sprung into action. The thread on inheritance tax at least discusses ideas in detail!