For Ming, with thanks

by Stephen Tall on October 16, 2007

Yesterday was a sad day for the Liberal Democrats; but in particular for Ming Campbell, a good, decent, honourable man, and someone who – if politics and life were fairer – could have proved to be a highly effective leader. But, in truth, he never looked comfortable in the job. For a gent whose attire is always immaculately tailored, the suit of leadership hung awkwardly on his frame.

The early comparisons being made are with Iain Duncan Smith; but that is to underestimate Ming’s contribution, which was more akin to Michael Howard – a man who professionalized his party’s operation, and steadied the ship at a difficult time. Both men are perhaps too shy to find it easy either to give or receive warmth. But they earned the deep respect, if not always affection, of their parties.

It would be unnatural if Ming did not reflect with some bitterness on the mauling he has been subjected to by the gutter press (which is pretty much all of it these days); and perhaps also with the party which listened too closely to that press. In the circumstances, Ming had little option but to resign if he wished to preserve his dignity. His swift decision was, nonetheless, a brave one: to admit failure is the hardest thing in life. But it is entirely in keeping with his outlook on life that it was not one he shirked.

Public life is the poorer for his departure.