Selling Ming Short

While I’ve come out as a Chris Huhne supporter, I consider myself very much a friend to Menzies Campbell’s campaign. He commands the support of a lot of people I deeply respect and I have no doubt whatsoever of his abilities or the qualities he would bring to the top post.

I have however had great misgivings about the mixed messages coming out of his campaign. The Scotland on Sunday article a few days ago confirmed for me what I had been feeling the previous week: a severe case of too many chiefs and not enough indians. Throughout the campaign thus far there has been a blatant lack of faith in the very product they they are trying to sell, with a constant refrain in the campaign being that with Ming you don’t just get the man, you get a whole team of young thrusting politicos.

I’m sorry, but so what? Is the Campbell Campaign claiming that Nick Clegg, Sarah Teather, Vince Cable, David Laws, et al would all resign en masse if either of the other two candidates were elected? Of course not. So we get them regardless of who gets elected as leader. It shouldn’t be a factor one way or another in this campaign.

Worse, the Campbell Campaign have now opted to describe their candidate as “a bridge to the future“. Did they market test that? It sounds to me like code for “stopgap” or “caretaker”. It is tantamount to saying that under Ming, the whole party will be engaging in a performance of “Waiting for Cleggot,” the danger being that – like the Beckett play – the eponymous character never actually arrives in the end (ask Portillo or David Davis about the weight of expectation).

I don’t understand why this tactic is being adopted. I’m sure I can’t be the only person who finds it a massive turn off. Remember that the bulk of those MPs who brought down Kennedy are backing Campbell. Two weeks ago they were assuring anyone who would listen that simply making do with a compromised leader in the hope that someone better will be ready in a few years wasn’t good enough; now they’re insisting that what we need is a dose of more of the same. I’m no longer prepared to accept that prescription.

What I want to see from Campbell’s campaign is, well, the candidate. He has a truly inspiring life story, an enviable parliamentary record and credibility coming out of his ears. I don’t give a fig about anyone else, they come later. It is high time they started believing in their own candidate and treating him with greater respect.

I can’t at this point see how I wouldn’t give him my second preference (Simon just doesn’t cut it in my view), but I’d genuinely like to cast it positively rather than out of resignation.


  1. He’s outlined his concept of leadership much more persuasively than anyone else, and it includes the desire not to be dictatorial or prescriptive – a vital ability (and something on which some of the others fall slightly short). I think his launch was designed to illustrate that. His website focuses in great detail on his qualities (and hardly at all on his supporters).

  2. Newspapers get read far more than websites, and pretty much every one is summing up his launch with the slogan “bridge to the future”.

  3. NI ETORKIZUNEN ZUBIAN NEBILEN: “I walked on the future’s bridge.”

    In order to evaluate a slogan or catchphrase, I translate it into Basque and see if it will work as the title for a song. And it does. Rather perfectly, in fact (had to supply the verb, though).

    Only one difficulty. It tends to suggest that (1) Ming is envisaged as a caretaker leader, and (2) the motives of his key supporters are to some extent Machiavellian.

    We need to see more of Ming the statesman, Ming the communicator, Ming the man of honour and principle who rises above the fray.

    Unfortunately, his campaign looks a bit of a dog’s breakfast at the moment. That is because too many cooks are spoiling the broth. They just haven’t thought it through.

    If Ming wins (and I think he will), it will be because he is known and liked. Simon will come second, because he is known and generally liked, but has a poorer reputation for competence and statesmanship than Ming.

    Chris Huhne won’t win. He may well be a marvellous man, but the electors don’t know him. However many heavyweight backers he accumulates, members will not vote for someone they barely know.

    For my part, I wouldn’t even recognise his voice.

    But I think he’ll get more than the 5% I predicted a few days ago.

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