Why Labour must wish they were led by Ming Campbell

by Stephen Tall on June 9, 2009

Spot the difference.

They both were elected to Parliament during the Thatcherite 1980s, each having risen to youthful prominence through their own talents (one as rector of Edinburgh University, the other as an Olympic sprinter), before dedicating their lives to public service. They both served with very real distinction in their respective front-bench positions, each earning deserved praise for their mastery of economic and foreign affairs respectively. They both long harboured a powerful yearning to lead their parties, but each shrunk from the opportunities when they first arose (in 1994, after John Smith’s death; and in 1999, after Paddy Ashdown’s resignation). They both finally attained the leadership of their respective parties, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, after their predecessors were forced from office.

Once in power, both Gordon Brown and Ming Campbell found leading their political party not quite as much fun, nor quite as well-suited to their otherwise exceptional talents, as each must have expected or wished. Both found their leadership styles were becoming the story, with the failures of each magnified and their successes obscured, and that the popularity of their parties were suffering as a direct consequence.

And there the similarities end.

Because Gordon Brown is determined to stick around, come what may, regardless of the damage that it wreaks on the Labour party. While Ming Campbell coolly appraised his own chances of making his leadership of the Lib Dems a success, recognised it wouldn’t happen, and quietly and honourably resigned so that the party could choose a new leader who might succeed.

How Labour must wish today that they had a leader like Ming Campbell.

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Well said. Hear hear.

by Paul Walter on June 9, 2009 at 10:35 am. Reply #

I strongly agree…but I hope it is a difference not only between two political personalities but reflects a contrast between two very different parties.

Nick Robinson recently wrote a piece for his BBC blog in which he concluded:
“…as Labour nurses its wounds from the worst election results in decades the party today decided to back the leader who took them to defeat”.

I don’t think Robinson got it right. It would be more accurate to say that the Parliamentary Labour Party could not make a decision. It had, quite literally, become petrified. Liberal Democrats don’t petrify quite so easily. Perhaps there have been too many near death experiences to take survival for granted.

After more than a decade of keeping its PLP members on a tight leash NuLabour lacks parliamentarians who are capable of speaking up and speaking out. It has been left in a Micawberesque condition: it cannot respond to the electorate, even though public dissatisfaction with Brown and disillusion with NuLabour has had (and will have) shocking electoral consequences.

What happened in Westminster and the Whitehall village last Thursday should be viewed as another episode in Britain’s longest running political soap opera: British conservatism (small ‘c’). It was evidence, if any more were needed, that the House of Commons, with those ranks and ranks of NuLabour stooges, cannot do reprsentative politics. It is time for a great infusion of new Liberal Democrat blood.

by Ed Randall on June 9, 2009 at 4:44 pm. Reply #

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