Sunday, April 09, 2006
Where on Earth is Sir Menzies Campbell?
In this soundbite age, where people's attention span is getting shorter and shorter, politicians have a very short time to stamp their mark on the political world. Iain Duncan Smith reckoned if you hadn't made clear where you were going or connected with the public in your first hundred days, you were done for - and perhaps he should know. So as Ming Campbell's leadership approaches its fortieth day, some LibDems can be forgiven for asking: WHERE IS MING? In the three weeks I have been doing my conventional wisdom index I have struggled to think of a single day in which Ming Campbell or his Party have been in the news. Ming's said little, done nothing and been almost completely invisible. What's he up to? Or, rather, what isn't he up to? In fact it's worse than that. He has allowed himself to be caricatured as a doddery old man. If that image isn't countered soon that's what the LibDems will have to contend with for the next four years. Forty days into his leadership he has still to appoint a Press Officer. Isn't this something he might have thought about during his leadership campaign? Journalists at the Tory conference in Manchester were telling me that he's impossible to speak to, that no one in senior LibDem circles knows what the strategy is, or even if there is one, and that one or two of the younger LibDem turks are already muttering about the hueg mistake they's made in electing Ming in the first place. However, let's not get carried away. The Dunfermline by-election shows that just when you write the LibDems off they come back to bite you. On May 5th Ming may get a second chance. According to Rallings & Thrasher the LibDems are likely to gain 200 seats in the local elections. Ming will no doubt claim that as a triumph. If that proves to be the case (and I have my doubts) then he should treat May 5th as Day 1 and an oppportunity to jump-start his faltering leadership. Because if he doesn't, there are people in his Party who will be just as ruthless with him, as they were with his predecessor.