"We must take risks," says Ming

by Stephen Tall on June 26, 2007

In a wide-ranging speech to Lib Dem staff today – reported on the BBC website here – Ming Campbell has pledged the party must be “prepared to take risks”. He also promised to make his age (66) a campaigning issue: “Politics would benefit from more people with experience.”

Here’s the filleted version…

On that offer from Gordon Brown:

As you know, Gordon Brown has offered ministerial posts to Liberal Democrats. I don’t blame him really. If I were Prime Minister I’d go further: I’d offer every ministerial post to Liberal Democrats. It’s understandable that the incoming Prime Minister wants to take advantage of the great talents on the Liberal Democrat benches.

But we are half way through a Parliament in which we have opposed the centralising and authoritarian tendencies of this Labour government. And I am not prepared to cash that in for the sake of ministerial jobs.

On the incoming Prime Minister:

The Liberal Democrats will put Gordon Brown in the dock and scrutinise his policies and pronouncements with relentless, forensic rigour. This Chancellor has presided over growing inequality. He was at the Cabinet table when civil liberties were being eroded. And when the army was being despatched to fight in Iraq his name was on the cheque.

We will be there to remind everyone that his fingerprints are all over the scene of the crime. The lead actor may have changed but the plot is just the same.

On the Labour/Tory alliance in Parliament:

David Cameron says he wants to provide an alternative to what Gordon Brown will offer. But the Tories cannot provide that alternative. The Conservatives and Labour are in shameful collusion.

On council tax, nuclear power, City Academies, Iraq and student finance they have formed a shabby consensus. It is ironic that of the few areas where the Tories actually have policies, they share so much in common with the government.

It is our duty to expose that consensus and, yes, to oppose it too. We’ll do it by rattling the cage of British politics and challenging the cosy consensus of the centre right.

On the BAE bribes scandal:

… the question today for Mr Brown is whether he will cooperate fully with the United States Justice Department inquiry into the allegations about the Al Yamamah arms deal. Isn’t a sad reflection on Britain that it is left to the US to investigate the conduct of a British company and its relationship with a Saudi prince?

What sort of signal does it send to the rest of the world when Jack Straw can congratulate the Conservative Party for failing to raise the issue of BAE in parliament?

On the eve of his appointment as Prime Minister of this country will Gordon Brown give us an undertaking that he will raise, not compromise, ethical standards in business and in diplomacy?

On being 66:

Will my age be an issue? Absolutely. Because I will make it an issue.

Politics would benefit from more people with experience. If more experienced politicians had taken the decisions, we might not be mired in the conflict that we see in Iraq today.

On risk-taking:

… when we’ve taken risks in the past we have often been proved right. Steel on apartheid, Jenkins on realignment, Ashdown on Bosnia, Kennedy on Iraq. We took the courageous course and won through.

In every example these statements of principle were played out in a hostile House of Commons. So we need conviction and courage in equal measure. Our party must be the champion of individual rights and not vested interests.

On his vision for Britain:

Many of you here know my huge affection for Jo Grimond and I can’t do better than quote his view:

“More power to the individual, more power to the local community, less centralised government – a country of free men and women controlling far more of their lives, exploiting choice and competition but backed up by services – also as far as possible locally controlled.”

And finally:

We can be defiantly optimistic about the future. We should be fanatical about freedom and relentless about reform. Europe should be seen as an opportunity not a burden. Globalisation, migration, changing social attitudes and, above all, climate change require a new and different kind of politics.

A new, transparent, committed kind of politics that we alone can provide.

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Go Ming!

(You could take that two ways)

by Laurence Boyce on June 26, 2007 at 2:01 pm. Reply #

Much, much better. Short, snappy and full of content. The Gordon Brown and the Age quotes are fantastic – if we keep this up we’ll continue to be moving forwards.

by SKTortoise on June 26, 2007 at 2:44 pm. Reply #

Just a shame it’s been usurped by the defection news…

by Dan on June 26, 2007 at 3:35 pm. Reply #

Very true – oh well, at least it’s still a step in the right direction (even if no one else heard it!).

by SKTortoise on June 26, 2007 at 3:56 pm. Reply #

Yes, darn it. Without such a high profile defection, Sir Ming’s speech would have been all over the front pages.

by Laurence Boyce on June 26, 2007 at 3:57 pm. Reply #

Rattle the cage, but without ruffling feathers…now that’s a tightrope worth walking!

This is the starting gun for the next election if ever there was one, so bring on conference and acclamation of the pragmatism and popularity of our policy papers.

by James S. on June 26, 2007 at 7:40 pm. Reply #

Every bit as good as his speech at the sustainable communities rally a couple of months ago. Let’s keep up the experience line – we know Ming’s age is going to be an issue – let’s do the New Labour and fight back.

And great to see Jo Grimmond come up – maybe a Penhaligon quote next time?

by Eastender on June 26, 2007 at 8:59 pm. Reply #

I was pleased to see him attacking the “cosy consensus of the centre right”. Lets hope that is a line of attack that is going somewhere.

by Geoffrey Payne on June 26, 2007 at 10:49 pm. Reply #

There’s no point playing up your ‘experience’ in your job if you’re entirely useless at it.

by Letterman on June 27, 2007 at 12:59 pm. Reply #

Er, and what “experience” does Ming have that is relevant to leading the party into a GE ????

by crewegwyn on June 29, 2007 at 9:36 pm. Reply #

Ming has rather more experience: as a respected and acknowledged expert on Foreign Affairs, something Cameron would give his eye teeth for. And what experience does Cameron have exactly??

by Meral Ece on June 29, 2007 at 9:47 pm. Reply #

Well said, Meral. Cameron’s experience is purely in PR. Useful, of course, but it’s all he has. He might already be being found out. Media reports today he has assured Tory MPs that he is going to start promoting more traditional Tory policies, like Europe. Well done, Dave, if you do that you’ve just lost the next GE.

by Stuart on June 30, 2007 at 3:37 pm. Reply #

The speech, in print, was fair enough – and contained some good messages. Just a shame that it followed such obvious outmanouvering by Brown and lack of political nous over the handling of that incident.

Unfortunately, I had the chance to see the real thing last night on BBC Parliament – I imagine they will be replying it through the recess. It was shown after Gordon Brown’s Leadership acceptance speech, and Cameron’s terse, overly stage-managed “values” speech.

I am a devoted Lib Dem, but cannot pretend the “making my age an issue” remark looked good. Yes, Ming was fast, principled, but also shaky.

It was not helped by a bizarre camera angle that substantially reduced his height with the effect of making him look something like the caged Doctor Who after being aged to the max by the Master at the end of (new) Series 3.

While Doctor Who bounced back, this is the real world. Ming looked shrivelled, wizened, shaken, frail and not ready for an election. A concerned Ed Davey, to his left, seemed poised to jump in just in case he should fall over.

How much of this was Ming, and how much a lack of professionalism around communications, I will let others comment on if they have seen it. But change is needed if we are not to sleepwalk to our worst General Election for decades. Seeing this clip, presumably released by the Party, helped me finally make my own mind up about Linda Jack’s remarks. She was right to speak out.

I do admire Ming’s principles and strengths. Sadly, this is not what tends to determine how most people vote – perceptions, and the ability to not just impart decisive messages, but also look the piece, are. This speech, in its delivery, fell a very long way short on those grounds. Nothing wrong with the content, but the room for presentational improvement is enormous.

by Cruel to be Kind on August 14, 2007 at 4:51 pm. Reply #

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