Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ming Needs to Avoid Vacuous Generalities on Cuts and Coalitions

I'm just about to drive down to Brighton to spend the day with the LibDems. I just listened to Ming Campbell's Today programme interview in which he successfully managed to avoid any question on policy at all. He was asked if he would campaign against all hospital closures yesterday and he gave a straight answer - yes. On the Today programme he was asked how this squared with his mantra of taking the "tough" choices which face the country. He answered that the Health Service was very important. Well, whoopee. He was then asked where the £15 billion of public spending cuts would come from. He said that the three great services of health, education and transport were very important. Vacuous in the extreme.

It's all very well sounding like the voice of sweet reason, but in the end, if you're going to be taken seriously, you have to give us some meat. Ming Campbell is the first to criticise David Cameron for talking about generalities, but there is a crucial difference. The LibDems have decided to come up with specific tax and spending proposals very early in the Parliament, which therefore come under scrutiny. Cameron's policy groups don't report for 6-12 months yet and when they do you can be sure that political opponents and the media will scrutinise them like never before.

The other line which is not sustainable for Ming is his oft-trotted out mantra about getting maximum seats and maximum votes. It's a good soundbite, but it's a motherhood and apple pie phrase. Peopel deserve to know who the LibDems lean towards in any possible coalition if there is a hung parliament at the next election. In their gut, they must individually know. I cannot believe that it would be in the longterm interests of the LibDems to prop up a wholly discredited Labour government, but on the other hand there are many in the LibDems who would rather stick needles in their eyes than consider a coalition with the Conservatives. Speaking from the Conservative viewpoint, the reverse is also true for many of us. However, politics IS about tough choices, and it could well be that this is a real choice which faces the LibDems in 2009. So who's it to be? This is a question I shall be asking LibDems throughout the day on camera, in a wholly unscientific poll. I wonder how many of them will have the courage their leader seems to lack.

30 comments:

beethoven writes said...

Iain, You've always written a lot about the Lib Dems in your Blog. In the event that there is a coalition between the Lib Dems and the Tories after the next election (heaven forbid!), I reckon you've volunteered for the job of Chief Negotiator!

Shotgun said...

Vacuous is a word to describe LibDums in any case isn't it?

The LibDums are not the only ones either: Labopur are past masters at giving no meat on a bone while whining about the Tories.

To be expected.

(he could have said he was going to renegotiate or even scrap the disastrous PFI contracts designed to give profit to New Labours pals, and save the £15billion there...)

Shotgun said...

I wish people would stop calling him MING too....it isn't pronounced MING, it is pronpunced MEENG-ISS.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and how convenient is it that Cameron is not going to have any policies until just before, or possibly even just after, the next election (if as many suspect Blair's successor calls a snap election) - one wonders why Cameron, Blair and Ming don't all just merge, they all behave the same way and have the same evasions and excuses, whilst leaving big business to get on with the job of looting the public purse err sensibly managing the nations activities.

Rigger Mortice said...

'in which he successfully managed to avoid any question on policy at all'

Not unlike our own dear leader Iain.I hardly think it fair to dig at Ming,he has a defence in that his party is,on the whole, a bunch idiots who wear sandals and mean well.DC has no such excuse.

While our lads are short of kit in Iraq/Afghanistan,he's off running with the huskies.

While the health service is in melt down,he's in India supping chai

While the Chancellor is spending us into recession,he's redesigning our logo.

Noone,as tory leader, has dissappered for longer, both philosophically and physically.IDS,(he was the worst) had his failings but at least he represented the views and values of the membership.

John Morrison said...

If I were Ming I would keep very stumm on the subject of a hung parliament until the election result is in. Cameron is also keeping stumm but to me every single move he has made since becoming leader has been designed to enhance the chances of a minority Tory government attracting Lib Dem support. Going green, abandoning Thatcherism and dropping any policy that Norman Tebbit would approve of -- all this will make the choice easier for the Lib Dems if they hold the balance of power. I don't foresee a proper coalition because the Tories won't pay the price of introducing electoral reform. But Cameron knows that in a hung parliament the Lib Dems won't want to be a lifebelt for a Labour party in decline. I suspect Ming knows this too.

david kendrick said...

The question 'If there is a hung parliament, who'll you support?' will be asked again and again. A losing (and unacceptable) answer is 'we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.' The country left high and dry after election night because the LDs aren't prepared for a likely outcome?

They may state that they'll work with a main party, subject to a strict timetable for the introduction of PR. Will that lead to a semi-permanent state of coalition govt? What would that look like?

Does that imply that voting LD can only have one of two outcomes? Irrelevant, if they have no clout, or lead to a coalition govt if they have the balance of power?

AnyonebutBlair said...

I think people have a simple choice at the next election. Vote to throw out the apalling and discredited NuLab or vote to prop NuLab up for another 5 years of misery and incompetence.
A vote for the LibDems is a vote to prop up Labour as in a hung parliament it is simply laugable to believe that Ming will enter a coalition with the Tories, when he could be foreign secretary with his mate, fellow scot and train companion Gordon

Anonymous said...

ugh, can't imagine anything worse than a day with the Lib Dims

Kevin Davis said...

I listened and could not believe how he got away with such a wet interview.

I also think he sounded very odd! Has he got a cold or is he not getting his afternoon nap?

Bob Piper said...

Iain, you make the mistake of assuming the Lib Dems would make a decision based on principles or policies. It would be nothing of the sort as people have seen in local government... it is about who would offer them the most personally in terms of snouts in troughs. If in your meanderings amongst them search out sex-god John Hemming who is more than happy to do deals with Tories as long as it gives him something.

Casual Observer said...

I'm surprised he's actually made it to Brighton, given his obvious and mounting confusion with practically all things liberal democrat and Coronation Street. Come back Charlie. All is forgiven.

tapestry said...

are there any signs of a leadership challenge brewing up, or is that issue dormant in the LD's for now?

Anonymous said...

This is indeed the big question and I hope you can get some answers as they needed to tell the public. Nationally I suspect as you they would rather join labour prehaps if offered PR. However many of there seats are traditional tory seats or tory/lab marginals and if this was admitted many may well swing back to the tories unexpectedly due to voters not wanting the Labour government. I suspect they therefore wont have the gutrs to say who theyd join. Despite the fact I think they would stand a chance of gaining seats if they did say and thereyd be a real chance to wipe Labour out in many areas of the city.
There are clearly areas of the country where the local lib dems and tories have worked very well together;Birmingham is a prime example where after 20 years of Labour destruction Council services are being improved and even the Government haas admitted it is better now. Indeed if things keep going the way they are nationally then Birmingham is one of those places where Labour could take a real beating. Indeed it is quite possible Labour will be left with only a couple of MPs. Of course in Birmingham political lines have in the last decade become very clear with very few Liberal-Tory seats so resources are targeted only on a Labour party which also suffers from BNP and Respect increases in specific areas of the city. Of course this is all speculation and dopes depend on things continuing to get worse for the Government. Still will be looking forward to seeing the results of your straw pool! Keep up the good work Ian!

Anonymous said...

OK. Now, Iain. Pleaassse can you fix your blog so that I don't have to scroll down the grotty adverts to get to your meat. I like the blog, but all this mousework is getting boring and I'm going to disappear ........

Anonymous said...

The LibDems won't be propping up anyone in the next parliament. If we do get a hung parliament, the Lib Dems are so ideologically split, particularly amongst their MPs that we will be faced with a minority government!

Russell said...

I see that directly after Charles Kennedy's speech to Conference today comes the "Wste Management Debate".... coincidence? I don't think so!

Ever Ready said...

Ming's comments regarding cuts and colations weren't neraly as vacuous as his respone to a question on replacing Trident....

Peter Hitchens said...

It's all very well sounding like the voice of sweet reason, but in the end, if you're going to be taken seriously, you have to give us some meat. shouldnt one of you mention this to Cameron minor?

Paul Davies said...

Be interesting to see how many 'whoever is the biggest party' responses you get. Now, obviously, it's likely that the biggest in terms of votes and the biggest in terms of seats will be different in 2009, which gives the LDs even more room to equivocate.

Anonymous said...

As a Conservative, I would be deeply unhappy about the idea of a coalition with the Lib Dems. Apart from the obvious problem of the looney policies, their campaigning proves them time and again to be just loathsome people...

Anonymous said...

Of course it will be a hard decision if the Lib Dems have to choose who to support in order to enable a working government to be created. however until David Cameron's policy groups do - finally - report back and until a new Labour leader is elected it's a bit hard to expect the Lib Dems to come down on the left or right. Isn't it?

Neil Craig said...

I disagree about the latter point. A good card player, or even a bad one, knows enough not to show their cards. The Lib Dems have been to keen in the past to say who they would or would not coalexsce with & on what terms. Do you think David Cameron will be showing his hand?

Contradicting myself I would probably make an exception for a representative electoral system being non-negotiable, a point on which Labour, having promised a referendum im 1997, are weak.

Valerie said...

Iain - as I understand it the whole point of the 'tough choices' thing is to focus on the big priorities and then cut out the spending on some other things, rather than paring little bits off everywhere.

Apart from the oft-used examples of the DTI and baby bonds, though, we haven't yet heard what else would get the chop - but Vince Cable is apparently going to be addressing it from now on(which is I suppose why Ming was reluctant to jump the gun). Still, I agree on the need to be concrete when (and as soon as) possible.

Elephunt said...

I think both Labour and the Tories would have a great deal of trouble with their activists if any post election deal with the LDs were in the offing.We actually know and understand what the LDs are all about,I'd rather stick my head in a sack full of rattlesnakes.

insatiable yucca said...

so ming, just like cameron, doesn't give us enough meat. only worse: ming gave us little meat now, cameron will do in 6-12 months... something doesnt add up here.

on taking a stand: yes, but its quite a bit too early, isn't it? they dont even know who will leade the labour party into the next elections... or do they?

The Conservative Bookman said...

We're seeing the end of the LibDems; they existed only to fill a vacuum and as the available space reduces and the hot air of the main parties expands they will cease to exist. And about time, too.

Bob Piper said...

"OK. Now, Iain. Pleaassse can you fix your blog so that I don't have to scroll down the grotty adverts to get to your meat."

Iain, if you get a better offer than that all week... please blog and tell!

Shotgun said...

It is fair to dig at Campbell and the LibDums because they specifically attacked the Tories for not announcing any policies, not that I personally think they should.

Anonymous said...

"Ming Needs to Avoid Vacuous Generalities"

I didn't know he had any plans to meet David Cameron?