Beware the curse of Rees-Mogg?

by Stephen Tall on July 23, 2007

I’m feeling conflicted. A good rule-of-thumb is to believe the opposite of what Lord William Rees-Mogg, columnist for The Times, and one of the least acute of Tory political commentators, writes. Today he uses his column to praise the Lib Dems’ performance in last week’s by-elections as “excellent”. Twice. What’s going on?

Last week’s by-election results were satisfactory for Labour, excellent for the Liberal Democrats and a disaster for the Conservatives. That was the almost unanimous verdict of the weekend’s press, except for Alan Watkins in The Independent on Sunday, who warned Gordon Brown against an early election. This general assessment is not likely to be overturned, but it is mistaken. Although Labour held two of its safer seats, these by-election results should be regarded as satisfactory for the Conservatives, excellent for the Lib Dems and very bad for Labour.

Incidentally, Alan Watkins’ piece is – as always – well worth reading. He has this to say about Ming Campbell in the wake of the Ealing Southall and Sedgefield results:

Could we now please stop blackguarding Sir Menzies Campbell? The principal bullies are the parliamentary sketchwriters, most of whom have never read a political book in their lives (the late Frank Johnson was an exception). They started off by having a go at Mr Speaker Martin, with a certain amount of justification, I must confess. This diversion soon palled, however, and they then turned their attention to Sir Ming.

In fact, BBC 2’s parliamentary programme, as measured by audience response, has recently shown Sir Ming doing rather better than the other two leaders. Of course, I would not wish to place too much faith in this push-button device. Nor, come to that, would I repose any great trust in Prime Minister’s Questions, however accurately the response might be measured.