BBC’s The World at One focuses on Ming’s future

by Stephen Tall on August 1, 2007

BBC Radio 4’s The World at One today featured a six-minute segment on the Lib Dems: how the party’s faring, and whether it would do better under a new leader. You can listen to it by clicking here.

The programme included an interview with prominent Lib Dem blogger, Linda Jack, a member of the party’s Federal Policy Committee, who commented:

“I think Ming was a brilliant shadow foreign secretary, but in terms of his leadership style he hasn’t captured the imagination of the party or the country. Unfortunately it’s the case where he has perhaps been over-promoted. Someone can be a brilliant man, and have incredible intellectual powers, and all the rest of it – but if that doesn’t translate in to leadership skills then, whoever your leader is, you’ve got a problem with them.”

The party’s deputy leader, Vince Cable, defended Ming’s leadership, pointing to the Lib Dems’ healthy performance in the Ealing Southall and Sedgefield by-elections. Vince also talked about the possibility of a ‘hung Parliament’, saying that the prospect of coalition with either Labour or the Tories was “very unlikely”, but he couldn’t “absolutely rule out any option”.

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What I think some people are missing (or have been lulled into forgetfulness by acquiesence in period of tolerable politics) is that all liberal philosophy rejects the passive subscription to rules dictated by any presumptive individual.

We might reach agreement eventually, but we recognise the value in going through the processes in order to reach that agreement – it formulates a detailed and nuanced collective opinion and foments a whole-hearted, conscious and steely resolve to carry out our collective decisions.

We must be open-hearted and open-minded to recognise that all actions have consequences, we must be aware of them and be responsible for our role within them.

Liberals don’t look outside for inspiration – and a liberal leader is not some transubstantiated icon to provide an illusory pretence of action.

Liberalism demands wholly realised individuals capable of autonomous decision-making – our leader merely provides the best possible beacon for identification (so, as Ming’s liberality is unquestioned, the issue is irrelevant; improvement is inescapably ever-present).

I’m sure we’d all love to revel in the tory pig-sty of glorious victory for a few seconds, but the facts will never be altered, work needs to be done and we will need to get on with it, win or lose come election time or war-time.

That dichotomy of death or glory is a non-sequitor to a liberal as tomorrow is another day, and there will always be a tomorrow.

If we agree we are liberal (and if we agree, we are liberal), we must plan, we must work, and we must get on with it.

by James S on August 2, 2007 at 12:03 pm. Reply #

If Ed is correct that we should be planning for a possible October GE, then all of this thread is a distraction.

Ming was not everyone’s first choice but he has a clear mandate, he is our leader and will be our leader for the next GE. He has done excellent work sorting out the party’s organisation. He provides an alternative to Brown and a contrast to Cameron for those voters who are looking for reassuring after Blair’s froth and spin. We should be cracking on with campaigning against the other parties and to promote our excellent policies and teams.

I want Lib Dems to win more votes and seats next time whoever our leader is. I don’t think at this stage of the cycle it is at all helpful for any Lib Dem to say things in the media which could be used to undermine that, however good their intentions.

by Bridget Fox on August 2, 2007 at 12:13 pm. Reply #

Laurence at 49.

As with a number of other posts, it might help if you read what I said.
I didn’t accuse you of advocating bigotry, just of using bigoted language. I also asked whether you could explain it. Which you didn’t. Are you sure you’re not Grant Shapps in disguise?

by AlexInGreenwich on August 2, 2007 at 12:59 pm. Reply #

You’re a bit gay, aren’t you?

Arse! I’ve done it again . . .

by Laurence Boyce on August 2, 2007 at 1:05 pm. Reply #

AlexInGreenwich, i think it may be that Laurence just revels in the attention that he gets from people like you; using words like “spazz” and “gay” is profoundly adolescent and i, for one, think he should just be sent to the naughty corner and ignored.

by leowatkins on August 2, 2007 at 1:22 pm. Reply #

Geoffrey Payne:
“But for some reason the party establishment swung behind the least inspiring of the 3 candidates and he got elected.”

So you didn’t back Ming at the time and are bitter the party disagreed with you. Why do you think the party would swing your way if there was another leadership election? Do we keep having them until it does?

“The rejection by the Lib Dems of coalitions in Scotland and Wales to many people simply did not make sense.”

And that’s relevant how? It’s a devolved issue and, unless you’re a member in Wales or Scotland, none of your busines in a way. It wasn’t for Ming as federal leader to dictate either (even as a Scottish member), and I’m not aware that he did.

by Graeme on August 2, 2007 at 1:43 pm. Reply #

56: Very true – entirely within the responsibility of the two national party leaders there. By all means they could have consulted with Ming but that’s their call. We are, after all, a federal party.

by Barry Scott on August 2, 2007 at 1:52 pm. Reply #

The scottish question is important as it has an influence in Westminster regarding the westlothian one, and I’d much rather nationalist voters were liberated than liberal voters nationalised.

Where it is a choice between power and influence both is better than neither.

by James S on August 2, 2007 at 2:28 pm. Reply #

James S 51 – Brilliant!

by Paul Walter on August 2, 2007 at 3:04 pm. Reply #

“But for some reason the party establishment swung behind the least inspiring of the 3 candidates and he got elected.”

The hustings I went to Ming was easily the most impassioned and inspiring.

“activists choice” Chris Huhne was particularly poor I thought & I nearly didn’t vote for him on the back of it. In the end I went Huhne 1 and nothing else purely because one of my best friends works for him & I didn’t fancy telling her I hadn’t 🙂

I don’t want to see debate stifled – I just don’t see what ramping up the leadership question achieves. None of the “ditch Ming” brigade seem to have addressed my three questions above.

by Hywel Morgan on August 2, 2007 at 8:32 pm. Reply #

Oh if you insist Hywel, I’ll answer your questions.

Who would be guaranteed to be better?

Apart from death and taxes, nothing in life is guaranteed.

When do we do the election? It took two-ish months to have a leadership election that would take us to the start of October at which point we could be in a General Election campaign.

We don’t have an election. We have a resignation followed by a coronation. Whole thing takes less than a week.

Does changing our leader twice in 18 months make us look more or less credible as a national party?

Neither. All it means is that everyone knows we made a mistake last year. But they know that anyway.

by Laurence Boyce on August 2, 2007 at 9:47 pm. Reply #

But a coronation of whom? There are two obvious candidates who always get mentioned in such discussions and have their own pockets of support, Nick and Chris. Lembit’s on record saying next time there’s a contest he’ll run – but how seriously? Are we seriously saying that David Laws, Susan Kramer, Lynne Featherstone, Ed Davey, Jeremy Browne, the attack of the revenge of Simon Hughes rides again or A N Other won’t stand if the prospect is that we’ll be electing another long-term leader and it’s their last chance? What about the much-vaunted return of Charles? Mark Oaten praying for universal amnesia? Stranger things have happened.
Either way, a coronation it will not be.

by Benjamin Mathis on August 2, 2007 at 9:53 pm. Reply #

Laurence, I have great respect for you, but I am yet to see a substantive argument presented by you.

Lembit to run for leader?! Cue: Laughing Policeman track

“Mark Oaten praying for universal amnesia” or should that be “Mark Oaten praying for universal enema”?

by Paul Walter on August 2, 2007 at 10:40 pm. Reply #

Laurence, I have great respect for you.

Eh? Why?

“Mark Oaten praying for universal amnesia” or should that be “Mark Oaten praying for universal enema”?

Oi! I’m responsible for lowering the tone on this site.

But a coronation of whom?

Chris Huhne. Try not to get it wrong this time.


by Laurence Boyce on August 2, 2007 at 10:54 pm. Reply #

Priest? That’ll annoy the secularist lobby!

And I’m only repeating what was said last year. Lembit said he wasn’t standing but would stand “next time”. Now, as in all things Opik let’s not assume anything but that’s what he said.

As for getting it wrong, maybe but like many before him, Chris will just have to wait till next time and remember Mark Twain (and others’) words: The people have spoken…the bastards.

by Benjamin Mathis on August 2, 2007 at 11:49 pm. Reply #

Er . . . yes, well we might have to change the words a bit. How about this?


by Laurence Boyce on August 3, 2007 at 12:26 am. Reply #

Laurence, i’m afraid i’ve been harbouring a deep suspicion that you are one of the following:

a) perpetually stuck in a state of mental adolescence

b) on some kind of narcotic drug

c) grant shapps in disguise, in what is one of the worst practical jokes since the establishment of the papacy (full offence to any catholics)

d) just a complete idiot with nothing better to do than prat about on LDV and general irritate people

so tell me old bean, which one is it?

by leowatkins on August 3, 2007 at 3:09 am. Reply #

a) Correct.
b) I drink rather a lot of wine.
c) I don’t even know who this Grant Shapps guy is.
d) I wouldn’t say that I’m a total idiot. But I’ve noticed that some people do find me irritating, though I really can’t think why. I’m only trying to help!

by Laurence Boyce on August 3, 2007 at 3:30 am. Reply #

I don’t find you irritating at all Laurence. You are a diamond in the LibDem blogging jewel-box.

… you must find that irritating, surely?

by Paul Walter on August 3, 2007 at 6:35 am. Reply #

It is a bit. Especially as you said the same thing to Linda 🙂

by Laurence Boyce on August 3, 2007 at 9:02 am. Reply #

Exactly!!!!!! I was hoping you would spot that and that it would cause extra grating! 😉

Quick – think of something else to say – this must be well on course to being the most commented LDV story ever!

by Paul Walter on August 3, 2007 at 9:39 am. Reply #

As others have pointed out, the problem with Laurence’s argument is that it relies on all of us uniting around one candidate. Which wouldn’t happen.

Clegg and Huhne would be bound to run and even though I agree Lembit’s got no chance, I suspect he’ll try. That’s not to mention Ed Davey and possibly (though I think it would be ill-advised) Charles Kennedy.

Unlike with the Tories post-IDS, there is no natural candidate for everyone to coalesce around. Plus in principle as Liberal Democrats I believe that we ought to be advocating an open contest in any case.

by Barry Scott on August 3, 2007 at 10:03 am. Reply #

I agree wholeheartedly with James S at 51 especially the last part – we must get on with it!

The results in ealing and sedgefield were good and really down to this that we as a party got on with the fight and were united and clear in the messages we got to the electorate – messages which have substance and aren’t just about image.

Shame that this is the only way Lib Dems get any publicity in the media at present – but we’ve got to be more relevent and we’ve got to talk up our policy differences from both the other two parties to do that.

we could all come up with criticisms of the leadership – best if at this stage i the parliament they are ‘constructive’ ones – i.e. given where we are what can we do better and how are we going to get the message over in the forthcoming GE.

This year’s conference is most likely the last one for the election – no time for a leadership election even if that were desirable – so better focus on the real political battle – the external one with the Tories and Labour.

by Paul L on August 3, 2007 at 11:00 am. Reply #

In the 1970s, Laurence would have been a student lefty, quoting Marx, Lenin and Jean-Paul Sartre, and possibly also Mao and Comrade Enver Hoxha. He is a militant atheist and materialist, fancies himself as an intellectual, and has the bullying, sneering manner to go with it. All the ingredients of the classic raging Trot.

His attitude to Norman Baker is telling. A Marxist would say Norman is diverting the workers from the revolutionary struggle with his agitation for high standards of probity in public life, his outing of corrupt ministers, and his investigations into high-level skulduggery. A similar excuse lay behind the odious public school know-all, Monbiot’s attack on the 9-11 Truth Movement.

Something I will wager. If Laurence falls seriously ill, just watch how fast he rushes round to the local priest for absolution.

Am I being too hard on Laurence?

by Angus Huck on August 3, 2007 at 7:25 pm. Reply #

Wow, that’s so wrong, it’s quite funny. In my youth I was very right-wing, largely on account of a somewhat odious upbringing. But I still lean to the right today, though I am certainly no Conservative. In fact I was dismayed a few weeks ago to hear Sir Ming describe the Liberal Democrats as a party of the “centre-left” on Question Time. In my view, we should be tacking to the right at this moment. As for your Marxist analysis, well it would give Norman a run for his money in the fruitcake stakes. This has got to be a wind up.

by Laurence Boyce on August 3, 2007 at 7:55 pm. Reply #

Coronation? I don’t believe it would happen, but even if it did, a coronated leader would never have the same mandate than an elected leader, like Ming. So I think that if Lib Dems would switch Ming to some coronated leader, they were worse off.

by D on August 6, 2007 at 11:55 am. Reply #

The problem with this whole argument is that there seem to be certain people who believe that a party can sweep to political success simply by changing leaders. Given that a large proportion of these people seem to be Tories, you would have thought they would have learnt by experience over the last 10 years or so!

Personally I didn’t vote for Ming, but the idea that replacing him by Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne, or whoever would suddenly revolutionise the whole policial situation is simply nonsense.

by Jeremy Sanders on August 6, 2007 at 1:57 pm. Reply #

#77 has the point mostly down to a tee.

Leadership isn’t solely about the personality of the leader, it involves a combination of the whole team spurring impetus and building momentum.

I personally think it should be taken as a credit to the party that we have such a strong front-bench capable of inspiring the speculation of any tormentor-aspirant!

Were we to reverse the roles and ask who are alternative potential party leaders in the Labour or Conservative groups, we’d quickly discover, for all their greater numbers, their pools of talent are relatively shallower.

by James S on August 6, 2007 at 5:04 pm. Reply #

Personally I didn’t vote for Ming, but the idea that replacing him by Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne, or whoever would suddenly revolutionise the whole political situation is simply nonsense.

I totally agree, but that’s not the argument. The argument is that Sir Ming is not up to the job. Simple as that. To say that “we’d be no better off under another leader,” is a counsel of despair.

by Laurence Boyce on August 6, 2007 at 5:16 pm. Reply #

I completely disagree with no 79 – Jeremy Sanders’ point (77) is absolutely *is* the point.

If a loyal party member has an actual alternative plan for doing things better, then I think they’re entitled to argue for that. But simply saying “I think our current leader is crap”, as you keep doing Laurence, with no actual plan for improving things for the party, and just to make you feel better, is not the act of someone who has the best interests of the party at heart.

By the way I am really all in favour of free speech and everything but is there any way of limiting the number of contributions from any one individual, just in the interests of the sanity of the rest of us, and the diversity of the site….there really is an *awful lot* of Laurence Boyce on this site – Laurence, obviously I do fully recognise your right to contribute, but is there any chance of limiting your contributions to, say, single figures a day…:-)

by Jeremy Hargreaves on August 6, 2007 at 7:09 pm. Reply #

Well no, Sanders is wrong insofar as he is imputing to me an argument which I have not and will not make. I cannot guarantee that we will sweep to power under a new leader, indeed this seems unlikely at present. Nor can I guarantee that a meltdown will not ensue. All I know is that Sir Ming is not up to the job, and that Chris Huhne, say, would be. If you’re all happy to go to an election with an unconvincing leader, then fine, but I think that’s a bit like serving up half-baked food at a restaurant – don’t be too surprised if it gets thrown back at you. By all means argue that Sir Ming is a great leader, but merely to argue that we’re no worse off than we would be under another leader is essentially to have lost the argument in my view.

On the other point, I was going to leave it at comment 54, and then again at comment 70, but people keep coming back at me! The thing to do is either to ignore me or agree with me 🙂

by Laurence Boyce on August 6, 2007 at 9:52 pm. Reply #

*gazes at his navel*

by Letterman on August 6, 2007 at 10:08 pm. Reply #

“All I know is that Sir Ming is not up to the job, and that Chris Huhne, say, would be.”

Is there any evidence for this statement?

by Hywel Morgan on August 6, 2007 at 11:19 pm. Reply #

No. It’s an opinion.

by Laurence Boyce on August 6, 2007 at 11:21 pm. Reply #

Coming in a bit late on this thread, but I do have another perspective, as I actually joined the party on Ming’s elevation to the top job. I don’t regret that decision – and I find it extraordinary that he has come in for such a degree of scorching opprobrium here and elsewhere.

Here’s why I like Ming:

1. He speaks in proper sentences, which are interesting and make sense. I stop what I am doing and listen to what he has to say, because it goes beyond the glib and obvious more often than pretty well any other senior politician.

2. He dosen’t rush to score petty party political points.
Some might see this as a demerit – I don’t.

3. He is currently the same age as Winston Churchill was when he became prime minister (for the first time) and about four years younger than Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (yay!) was in 1905. The whizz-kid fixation is a recent phenomena – Blair was PM at 43, of course, and look where it’s got us.

4. He had two successful careers prior to going into politics, and won his seat from an unpromising position on, I believe, the fourth attempt. Contrast this with the parachuting of Messrs Brown
and Cameron into their cosy safe seats, after their previous exhilarating careers as politics lecturer and hack (yawn) and PR man for Carlton Television (God give me strength).

If you’re not convinced by any of that, then – as rehearsed above – please recognise it’s both too soon and too late for another leadership contest, with the prospect of a general election looming. Make the most of the good man we’ve got.
It’s politics, it’s serious, it’s not effing pop idol.

by Howard S on August 7, 2007 at 12:00 pm. Reply #

It’s not effing pop idol.

It isn’t??? You’d think somebody might have told me . . .

by Laurence Boyce on August 7, 2007 at 12:27 pm. Reply #

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