Without evidence that Sir Ming has both the ability and the will to win, his youthful supporters such as the very able Nick Clegg may need to start preparing contingency plans.
– the odds on Clegg shortened to make him even more favoured than Oaten at one point.
Yet no denial from the camp Clegg, which is strange, Sherlock might say. Not even a Heseltine style non-denial, denial. The feeling in camp Clegg is that basically he’s snookered by Ming. But Guido also hears that there may be a shot out of this: Newsnight producers are considering the idea of another Luntz style focus group on LibDem candidates but including Nick Clegg.
Dr Crippen and Guido suspect it is, sadly, a little bit of optimistic of the Ming spinners to claim “complete remission”. 45% survive is the acturial hard reality of the situation. More fatal to Ming’s leadership ambitions will be his performance on Wednesday at PMQs. Any repeat of the nervous performance of last week will be terminal for his political life. Guido is consistently told that Clegg as well as Ed Davey both wish to be relieved from their commitment to Ming made when his coronation looked likely.
Many LibDem activists faced with the existing leadership candidates are thinking none of the above. If proud Ming mangles his performance at PMQs again, it seems possible that he may cite health reasons and withdraw his candidature, rather than the face the probable humiliation which he looks unexpectedly likely to suffer. Expect Clegg to declare in those circumstances, despite his prior protestations about experience over youth in the Indy. Two more PMQs remain before nominations close on Wednesday week at 4pm. Clegg and Davey would face no problems getting the requisite nominations in the event that Ming falters.
It’s Saturday, 10.30am and this is beyond the call of duty, but here we go:
- Ming up first, bashes Cameron tries to reposition himself on the left. Looks old. Business like.
- Hughes up next, says policy is not the leaders remit, membership makes policy, tickling the clitoris of the activists. Leaders job is to deliver the message. Thatcherite New Labour, fairness inequality, excluded, liberal values etc. Freedom & fairness, “spend more wisely and tax more fairly” – terrible soundbite which middle of the road voters will hear as “spend more… tax more”. Pitch to the activists.
- Huhne kicks off with “global” as his key word, says he is open and rational. Reads and looks at his script, dull, but sensible. Dark green pitch with eco-taxes as the answer. Asks why minimum waged are taxed, tax is over-centralised, 94% of tax goes through Whitehall. More women LibDem MPs please. Freedoom and fairness, pragmatism. Sounds like a Cameron Conservative to Guido.
- Oaten goes scriptless and off the podium, new ideas and fresh thoughts, tribute to Kennedy, anti-war, proud of the party, pledges to defeat the ID card. LibDems must be optimistic. Cracks a couple of jokes, “principles into power in the 21st Century”. Fine, but not barnstorming.
Surely only members can vote? Correct, anyone who is a member on January 26 will be able to vote. Membership is open, it costs a minimum of £6, so join up and vote. For about £300,000 the Tories can choose the new LibDem leader…
Chris Huhne is the first runner with a campaign website up: www.chris2win.org – its crap and yellow. Ming’s is not ready www.mingforleader.org.uk it was registered by Dan Purchese, Chair of East Arun Lib Dems. Not sure its the official Ming site.
UPDATE: Oaten is up with Oaten TV, which has him and Lembit Opik broadcasting. Oaten’s entire campaign seems to be about him and “libertarian” Lembert. Guido was a bit surprised to hear Lembert claim in the video they are a pair of libertarians.
Nick Clegg, the LibDem Tories most feared, is hoping for a deputy Mingship after having now realised that he has missed the leadership boat. His “have I screwed it up” phone calls yesterday saw his odds dip down to 15/1 despite not being a declared runner (now back out to 50/1). You missed the boat Clegg, you may as well just join the Tories now, the Torygraph backs you and they actually want you.
Hughes is now favourite, the former bookies favourite, the patrician Ming, now reckons he is more left-wing than Labour in his interview in the Guardian this morning. LibDems are so honest and straight forward aren’t they?
Betfair’s rules state “The market will be settled based on the first official announcement of the next Liberal Democrat Party leader.” Guido called Cowley Street LibDem HQ this morning and asked, “Who is the leader of the Liberal Democrat party?” The press office replied that Menzies Campbell was indeed their leader.
Unless the Bookies claim the LibDems are leaderless, then the punters have a good point. Michael Howard signalled he was stepping down six months in advance, a very different situation, Charlie Kennedy actually stepped down as leader and Ming Campbell took his place. Morally, if the parliamentary authorities accept Ming as LibDem leader how can the bookies not follow suit?
UPDATE: Betfair has suspended the market.
UPDATE: “For the avoidance of doubt, this market will be settled on the first official announcement of the next Liberal Democrat leader as selected in the next Liberal Democrat leadership contest.” Betfair moves the goalposts! Well this is not only unsporting, but leaves them with a potential problem if Ming is crowned and a leadership contest is forgone. This could result in the market being out of play for years…
Ming will be 68 come the election – the LibDems think they can turn this into a strength – did they see the panto Tory Toff outfit he was wearing when he announced he was standing? He will be a joy to caricature. Oaten as leader would potentially bring about Liberal / Tory tactical alliances. Simon Hughes as leader will bring disaffected LibDem voters back to the Tory fold.
As Cameron crunches his cornflakes, he can only laugh at his luck.
Will there be a Flash to save us? Oaten? A slaphead who most mothers would feel uneasy seeing near a playground. Hughes, the darling of the backroom boys and beardie-weirdie, sandal wearers. Or John Hemming MP, a man who probably does believe he is Flash – aaaaah – saviour of the universe.
Hemming is an attention seeking nutcase, who claims to have the support of another MP for his leadership bid and is soliciting the required rank and file nominations. He was the only LibDem MP to not sign Kennedy’s formal nomination papers in May, he says because of his concerns. Hard to say how to describe Hemming, but bonkers does spring to mind. Guido will of course be endorsing him (since he is a reader of this blog) and I urge you all to answer his call for volunteers. Email email@example.com.
Guido doesn’t ‘get’ Ming Campbell, he looks like a LibDem version of Malcolm Rifkind, how could he be an improvement on Kennedy? He certainly would look like a retro step to the public in the face of young Dave. With Simon Hughes apparently ruling himself out of the running, a cynic might think that the job isn’t worth having for a couple of years. So best keep Kennedy at the helm, presiding not leading, as someone stingingly described. Better the liberal you know.
At PMQs Guido was watching Gordon Brown’s face, he was looking across the dispatch box at a confident Cameron. When Cameron jibed that “You were the future once” at Blair, Gordon’s was not a happy visage, his nights must be tortured by flashes of images of the not-so distant future.[…] Read the rest
Basher’s campaign team have their CVs out, Davis himself is reading Jane’s Defence Weekly, even Wat Tyler accepts that an Elvis comeback is more likely than a Davis victory.