I feel the need to point this fact out because whenever a journalist wants a rentaquote to be rude about the party leader, they not only trot out Ben Ramm but they insist that he publishes “a magazine for Liberal Democrat activists“.
If he does, he keeps quite quiet about it. The Liberal is a literary magazine which occasionally has dalliances with politics but is more concerned with poetry. All fine and dandy (with emphasis on the dandy), but the truth is it is largely ignored by Lib Dem activists. The closest we have to a magazine for Lib Dem activists is Liberator, and they don’t speak for me either.
Ramm of course, knows all this. Far from it being explained away as simple journalist laziness, his ubiquity in articles about the Lib Dems’ woes is down to an editorial policy of deliberately using journalists’ ignorance about the magazine’s standing in the party with a view to gaining free advertising. He isn’t interested, and never has been, in advancing the Lib Dem project. Everything he has ever written about the party is simply polemic. He has only ever seen the party as a tool for self-promotion. That’s his prerogative; but its my prerogative to point this out whenever he pops up again.
We should remember that Ben Ramm organised a campaign to get rid of Charles Kennedy. He did this by making extremely exaggerated claims about the level of support his online petition had received from party activists, again using the veneer of the magazine as a “voice of activists” to lend it some credibility.
Now, regardless of whether you love or loathe Ming Campbell, no-one can deny that the way his predecessor was dispatched was, to say the least, unfortunate and that the subsequent election for leader was necessarily more rushed than it should have been. That was why many of us were keen to keep our powder dry until later in 2006 (and why I seem to recall turning down Ramm’s request to run his anti-Kennedy petition site).
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of all this therefore – and now I appreciate the enormity of the Kennedy problem which was not wholly apparent to those of us outside of the Westminster bubble at the time – one thing Ben Ramm can’t do is absolve himself of any responsibility for the coronation of Ming Campbell. Even a shred of mea culpa would be nice, but that would appear too much to ask.
None of this would annoy me if The Liberal was genuinely committed to making a meaningful contribution to the debate surrounding the development of the party, but it manifestly isn’t. Indeed, in this Independent quote he appears more concerned with approvingly pushing David Cameron’s stock phrases (“a broken society” et al) than anything else.