Thursday, 15 March 2007

A reply from Ming

Last week, I criticised our handling of the hung Parliament question, and suggested a much more honest and direct approach. In a moment of cheekiness unparalleled in the history of the Lib Dems, I wrote a "speech" for Sir Ming to deliver, to put the whole question to bed. To add the icing on the cheeky cake (which takes some doing), I sent him the link!

Our technologically-savvy leader, or one of his technologically-savvy office staff, has very kindly written me a response, via Facebook. For readers who aren't familiar with this august website, it's a social networking system, originally for students but now open to everyone. Several of our MPs have Facebook profiles, which may well help with campaigning.

So what did the pinstriped radical have to say for himself?

Firstly, he assured me that he wasn't interested in campaigning for a hung Parliament or a coalition, and that he was still focused on maximising our votes and seats. I agree with him, and I'm glad to hear him say so - but it doesn't solve the problem. Whether he intended it or not, his Conference speech has been widely seen as a coalition overture to Labour. However sincerely he means it when he talks about "maximum votes", that line will no longer stop speculation. Not in the way that it did a fortnight ago.

In his reply, Ming quoted a section from his Conference speech, and complained that it hadn't been taken into account by the newspapers in their analysis. It comes just before the infamous five tests:

And now we are faced with the prospect of Gordon Brown as prime minister.

This Chancellor of the Exchequer has had more control over the direction of government policy than any Chancellor in living memory.

This man, who has written the cheques since 1997, has had unparalleled influence within Whitehall. Why on earth should we believe that Britain will be better governed if he moves from No 11 Downing Street to No. 10?

Why should we believe that more of the same is what Britain needs?

As far as it goes, this is all true. But I would direct Sir Ming to Stephen Tall's excellent article on the subject. Stephen points out that Ming "clumsily set out five tests for Labour’s Gordon Brown to prove his prime ministerial worthiness, but scornfully dismissed David Cameron’s Tories in just three words".

Ming may well claim to have provided a balance between courting Br
own and criticising his record - but what happened to the correct balance between criticism of Labour, and criticism of the Tories? That's the balance he got wrong, and that's what led to the damaging speculation.

I suspect (and I have no inside knowledge) that Ming is very unimpressed by David Cameron, and intensely dislikes him. But I worry that he lets his personal contempt colour his political judgement. As my favourite fluffy elephant rightly pointed out, instead of writing him off in three words, Ming should have set some tests for Cameron as well:

The true tests for the Conservatories surely should be the SAME, but with ONE MORE: have some policies so that we can TELL whether you have changed or not!

On the one hand, I'm very glad that Ming or his people have got in touch - it does show that they're switched on, and prepared to take in a range of views within the party. At the same time, however, I'm a little concerned that he hasn't understood clearly enough what went wrong, and doesn't have a specific plan as to how to nail the coalition question. For my part, I can only suggest that a more direct approach, and a less "political" one, would do a tremendous amount of good here.

Ming should heed his own words. "More of the same" isn't good enough for Britain, and it isn't good enough for us either.


I've just blogged three times in a row on exactly the same speech. This can't be healthy! I'd better find something juicy and different to get my teeth into for the next article.


What do people think of the new, dynamic header at the top of the page? Is it an improvement, and does it spice up the look of the blog? Or is it just a distraction? All comments appreciated. This is still a bit of an experiment ...


Linda said...

I like the new dynamic header...........but shouldn't it be a hoodie?!

Jonny Wright said...

It's always been a burberry baseball cap, ever since day one of this blog ... don't ask me why, it just seemed like a nice mascot at the time! I haven't got the heart to change it, even if it isn't exactly accurate.