Poor old Ming. Last week, he was odds on favourite to assume the leadership of the party, with some even talking about the need for unity and for only one candidate to go forward, thus negating the need for a messy campaign.
Then, some at the nuttier end of the political spectrum decided that they would nominate anybody who could find a crayon and the requisite forms (it not being wise to trust these people with anything sharper than that). Stand up the invisible MPs - Paul Rowen and Mike Hancock - and the only too visible 'Superstud' John Hemming, who nominated Mark Oaten, but continues with his own leadership campaign as his ego continues to outstrip his talents. So, despite the change in the Liberal Democrat rules at conference, passed in an attempt to keep the number of candidates manageable, we now have four declared and suitably nominated candidates ready to speak at the conference in London this week. John has declared an interest in standing, although he is preparing his supporters for the possibility that he can't find other MPs prepared to stick their names on the list, let alone 200 members from 20 constituency parties who have heard of him. Judging by the hits on this site over the past week, they are certainly learning about Cllr Hemming - we're back to the volume we had around election time last year. If you do a Google search on 'John Hemming leadership' - this site is one of the first to appear - always glad to provide a reference resource.
So, now there are four candidates, with rumours that Nick Clegg is 'taking soundings' and might yet decide to run, after the Minger's performance at PMQs gave his campaign chances a knock and opened it up for Hughes. Oaten seems to have wound up far too many people and Huhne seems too electorally vulnerable, after he threw away a 3000 Lib Dem majority at the last election and scraped home with just 568 votes over the Tory challenger, making his seat the Tories' 15th most winnable and a prime target in 2009. Despite that, he's embarked on a media campaign, turning up on Radio 4 this morning and actually sounding quite sane and rational.
It seems that the Orangistas plans for crowning Ming as Emperor for the short term have fallen to bits, so they are rolling out their big guns now to tackle the threat of Hughes.