Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Ming cracks

Newsnight devoted a large chunk of time last night to an assault on Ming the Merciless and it wasn't good news for him at all. If that's the best relaunch his new publicist can think of, he's in real trouble.

Even though his performances in PMQs have improved, he's still not able to land serious punches on Blair - amazing given the news agenda at the moment. Campbell is being run ragged by Cameron. His problems run much deeper than a weekly appearance in the Commons - which is the main shop window for the Liberal Democrat leader outside election time.

A Newsnight/ICM poll of voters saw over half preferring the alcoholic Chatshow Charlie as the leader of the Liberal Democrats, with only a quarter backing the charmless Campbell. This can't be good news - not least with the reminder that Chuckie might be considering a return to the throne. Only a few weeks ago, Charlie reminded us that he would have liked to contest a leadership election in order to remove the question mark that hangs over the whole sordid affair and I'm sure that there would be great personal satisfaction in bringing down one of those responsible for Kennedy's unseemly defenestration at the start of the year.

Part of Campbell's problem is that there is little focus on the third party outside election times and even less when the second party is in the ascendant. Let's face it - the Liberal Democrats have no chance of forming the next government, whilst the Tories are in the strongest position they have been in for a political generation. The best the LDs can hope for is to hold the balance of power between the two parties - a possibility that Ming studiously avoided discussing. So, the leader of a junior party always faces a major challenge to get any decent coverage, but this isn't helped by Ming's complete lack of charisma. Even on Newsnight, he berated one poor student who was considering voting Liberal Democrat and treated her as a hostile witness - barking questions at her regarding tuition fees and Iraq. When challenged about his lack of passion, he responded by telling us that he had been offered a seat on the High Court bench back in 1996, but he was so passionate about leading a third-rate party down the drain that he refused it. Increasingly, that's looking like an error of judgement.

Apparently Ming's biography has been held back because it describes how Campbell pushed the knives into Kennedy's back. I suspect that the truth (apart from the risk that nobody outside the lickspittles making up the LibDem front bench these days would buy a copy) is that everyone suspects that this autumn will require a new chapter - 'Downfall of the House of Ming' or 'The Return of Chuckie.' Don't turn your back, Ming.

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