Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Politics Decoded: Ming the Meek, Tory Triumphalists, Brown the Bully & Age is just a Number

In case you missed it - here is my weekly Politics Decoded column that I write every Tuesday morning over at the Wardman Wire...

Not too old, just no good

Today I was going to write about the imminent departure of Sir Ming Campbell as leader of the Lib Dems – but it appears he has jumped the gun somewhat and beaten me to it. It is widely reported that Ming was just too old for the job and had to go. However, I think this assessment is unfair. Ming wasn’t too old for the job – he was just not very good at it.

Of course, it didn’t help that he looked like Mr Burn’s old brother and that behind his sixty-six years belied a man of what appeared to be one hundred and six, but a good leader is a good leader is a good leader. I imagine if Iain Duncan-Smith had been fifteen years older we would all have put his ineffective leadership down to age as well – as it happened he was a young man (in political terms) and so his failure as a leader was just taken at face value. Winston Churchill was pushing seventy by the time of the battle of Britain – but no-one gave a damn about that as he gave Hitler and the Luftwaffe a lesson in leadership.

OK – so times have moved on and Blair has almost come to characterise what a PM should look like but I still don’t buy the argument that even if you are good enough for the job but over fifty five then forget it. The truth is Ming was ineffective and was always going to be a failure from the first time he asked a question at PMQs as acting leader about acting headmasters only to be met by apoplectic laughter. I’m sure Ming is nice guy, in fact I’m sure he’s a good guy, but you need more than that to lead a party in the House of Commons. Ming just did not have it and I doubt he ever did.

What now for the Tories?

So what now for the Lib Dems? Or should the question be so what now for the Tories? The next step for the Lib Dems is to elect home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg – it’s a no brainer. However what impact will this have on the Tories? The Tories must be a little nervous at the proposition of Ming going – he was virtually their trump card. The Tories would do well to stop gloating so much and really give the next few months a real push to secure their ground in the polls. As I have been saying ever since the Tory surge in the polls a couple of weeks ago, the Tory vote has largely come from the Lib Dems, the Labour vote has held fairly strong, never dropping below 38%.

Nick Clegg will be a popular leader and will get far more attention that Ming did and will be far more effective at attracting back the Tory vote. He is shrewd politician and will have some genuine policies up his sleeve. While Ming liked to bang on about the environment and latterly fixed term parliaments (all good causes but hardly vote winners), Clegg will add some weight to the Lib Dem manifesto. It won’t lead to them soaring in the polls, but it will probably put them back in the low 20s. In which case, the Tories will be back down in the low 30s and Labour will have a comfortable lead in the polls again. I wonder if Brown regrets ruling out that May election, he can’t seem to get anything right…

EU can’t fool us, Mr Brown

The time to Gordon Brown signing the EU Treaty is drawing ever closer. The way Brown has handled this whole affair is another example of his poor strategic nous. He knows full well that this treaty is no different from the constitution – even his party is saying so. Yet he thought he could fool the electorate by saying it was different. Now he has seen that we aren’t as dumb as he’d hoped, he is trying to say that if he can not secure the red lines then we will have a referendum. I presume he will be voting no in that referendum if he doesn’t secure the red lines? The fact is whatever happens we won’t be getting a referendum because Brown knows he will lose. The only thing worse than that would be going to a referendum anyway and being seen as changing policy again on the back of Tory pressure. The man is playing party politics with our sovereignty and it is not on.

You’re never too old

A MORI poll in 2004 was conducted to try and discover who Britain’s greatest PM of all time was. Here is the top ten –

  1. Clement Attlee
  2. Winston Churchill
  3. David Lloyd George
  4. Margaret Thatcher
  5. Harold Macmillan
  6. Tony Blair
  7. Herbert Asquith
  8. Stanley Baldwin
  9. Harold Wilson
  10. Lord Salisbury

Note – Clement Attlee was 62 when he came to office and Winston Churchill was 66. He was then re-elected at the grand old age of 77. Ming, you were a mere whipper-snapper.

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