Sunday, March 04, 2007

LibDems: So Now We Know...

Well give the old boy some credit. He's got some cojones. Ming Campbell has made clear at his Party's Spring Conference that he wants a coalition deal with Gordon Brown. It's bold, it's brave...and it's absolutely bloody stupid. He's set out five criteria which Brown would have to meet for a coalition to be possible and he has all but ruled out a similar deal with the Conservatives. The astonishing thing is that PR isn't even one of the five conditions. The BBC report is HERE.

I suspect the Orange Bookers will be seething. And I suspect it will not go down well with LibDem voters in southern constituencies either. If I were David Cameron tonight I'd think it was a good day's work done, without lifting a finger.

And talking of Dave, I must also share with you Ming's best joke in his 'keynote' speech. Be prepared to laugh out loud. No, really.
Come on Dave, it's time to come clean. Admit your guilty secret. "In your youth you were a Tory Boy and your heroes were Michael Howard, Norman Lamont and John Selwyn Gummer. With pin-ups like that, frankly, I'd want to keep my past private too.

My sides are aching.


David Anthony said...

Completely agree. So all those in the country that want Labour out of office now know that they HAVE to vote Conservative.

Everyone knew this anyway but it's an important psychological shift for those swaying between Lib Dem and Tory.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we should re-name him 'Ming the Merciful' for not having the cojones to deal with Nick Clegg..

Johnny Norfolk said...

Do you remember when Labour first came in and they did the deal with the Libs that they would have proportional representation if the Libs help them defeat the Tories.

Blair got in with such a large majority he just kicked the idea out. Now they want to join in with them again. They are no better than labour you could not trust them. They would let labour walk all over them again, weak, weak, weak.

Anonymous said...

As soon as I saw that the Minger had dropped the electorial reform requirement, I just switched off.
They do not deserve my vote and will never get it if they were the only alternative to Zanu-NuLabor.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure at what point in Ming's speech it is clear that he is seeking a deal with Brown. I think strategically he is doing something very clever so don't underestimate the man.

First, Brown is unlikely to want to meet any tests set by another party let alone Blarites in his. Therefore, the LibDems can quite easily walk away from coalition with Labour after the next election, particularly if it is electorally suicide to enter into coalition with them.

Secondly, these are tests that Cameron could quite easily meet. However, there is no harm in playing hard to get. Under current polling, the Tories do not have a majority. Cameron is going to have to turn up the "liberal conservative" message thus risking discontent on the Right. It is fairly well known that many of Cameron's policies are formulated on the basis that they need to be acceptable to potential LibDem coalition partners.

Ming has been a lot more shrewd than an initial partisan analysis might suggest.

Anonymous said...

Madness, I'm a floating voter between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Menzies Campbell means I will vote Conservative now. I'm bemused as to why Campbell thought he was being clever.

Ralph said...

All he has done is tell Tories in Labour/Lib Dem marginals that there is no point voting tactically and everyone else a vote fot the Lib Dems is a vote for Labour.

It’s the best news for the Tories since Labour picked Kinnock as leader.

Anonymous said...

Well a coalition is the closest the Lib Dems will get power in Westminster... can't blame them really, after-all, that is what all politicians really want isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Iceberg, what Iceberg?

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Anonymous said...

A big tactical error for the next election, tories in con-lab marginals will say 'voting for lib is a vote for brooon and the corrupted labour party'

I can't think of anything that would make lib / con waverers vote tory.

Anonymous said...

He's running scared. He attacks Cameron for his doubts over Iraq but sends an open invitation to Gordon Brown who's still supporting the invasion.

Q: what's worse than a Scottish PM?
A: a Scottish PM with a LibDem Scottish Deputy PM

Jonny Wright said...

I've just watched the speech on BBC, and I'm really not convinced your interpretation is the right one, Iain. Ming's "five tests" sounds more like a parody of Brown's five Euro tests that were deliberately never met. To me, it sounded more like a list of things that Labour should do but aren't doing - and not the start of a coalition negotiation.

He did talk a lot about PR in the speech, in a different section from the "five tests" section. In his summing-up, he said that it was a key Lib Dem policy to change the voting system and make every vote count - I don't think he could have been much clearer on the subject.

He also very prominently repeated his "maximum votes, maximum seats" line, which is Lib Dem code for "we're not going to speculate about who we might get into a coalition with". That's absolutely the right line, of course. If the Lib Dems committed to another party ahead of the election, we'd lost the ability to put forward ideas independently. So obviously, people who don't like the Lib Dems would love to spin this as "Libs seeking Labour coalition ..." There's an agendah ere, I suspect.

I don't know where all this coalition frenzy has come from, but it's certainly something that has been projected onto Ming's speech by the media, the pundits and the rivals, rather than something that was contained in his speech to start with.

Anonymous said...


Regardless of what he actually said it is how it is reported and what can be inferred that is important. Whatever you actually say - if it is enough to start a tabloid vote liberal=get labour frenzy then its a disaster.

The art of public speaking is to leave everyone with the impression that you said what you actually said, this is quite difficult.

David Anthony said...

Don't you mean cojones?

Chris Paul said...

It was a minging speech. Really really awful. After the initial briefings that it was a five-point love letter to Labour there have been still more briefings saying it was nothing of the kind.

Iain obviously meant cocoons - like in that lovely film where the old get younger by the day. Ming has got cocoons.

Anonymous said...

Jack's speech was great yesterday. Can't remember any policies though.

Anonymous said...

If he meant to move towards a coalition with his speech today, he's an idiot.

If he said those things but didn't mean to move towards a coalition, he should have expected this type of media coverage and is therefore an idiot.

Tungsten Pirate said...

I've given up on the Lib Dems, it's a truly liberating feeling.
I used to think they were a healthy alternative to a once goddamn awful Tory party, and a killjoy, controlling Labour party.

Anonymous said...

Go home and prepear for oblivion!!.ha ha poor old ming he just dont get it does he, like some old incontinent dog you just wont have put down.

Anonymous said...

You're misreading the story Iain. Campbell's Chief of Staff Ed Davey (and so a man who might be better informed than you Iain, as if that were possible!) was very clear with his post-speech comment: "The tests Ming set for Brown were about his likely government in a few months time and not about some post-election situation."

Scary Biscuits said...

To the LibDem astoturfers here: it's no good trying to spin this as what he might do pre-election or not ruling out anything post-election with the Tories.

The mere fact he is appearing to talk about collaboration with Labour is a decisive break from the two David's (SDP and Liberal) policy parodied by Spitting Image as "neither one thing nor the other but something inbetween".

It's also refreshingly honest. In truth, the Liberals/SDP have always been left wingers under different colours. For the last 20 years they've operating as Labour's auxiliary force. The difference is now they're admitting it. Ming's jibe about Cameron being a 'Tory boy' as though that is some sort of insult shows where his true feelings are whatever the spin doctors may say.

Iain Dale said...

Mark, It seems I am not alone... This has just appeared on PA...

Sir Menzies Campbell's attempt to reassert his position as Liberal Democrat leader was overshadowed today by chaos at the head of the party over its strategy for a hung Parliament.

The party leader used a major speech to set out five "tests" for Gordon Brown to meet if - as expected - he takes over from Tony Blair as Prime Minister this year.

A senior press officer told reporters afterwards that it was the "first signal" Sir Menzies would be interested in talking to Labour about a deal if the Lib Dems held the balance of power.

And he also indicated that the party's desire for proportional representation at Westminster elections - not included in the five tests
- would not be set as a precondition of such a deal.

But the Lib Dem leader's chief of staff Ed Davey furiously dismissed the briefing as "unauthorised" and insisted Sir Ming had not been referring to a post-election deal at all.

Sir Menzies said passing the tests would determine whether Mr Brown could offer a "change of direction" after Mr Blair steps down.

And the Lib Dem leader delivered a stinging attack on Tory leader David Cameron, telling delegates: "Are the Conservatives up to this same challenge? Of course not."

PR was "not a deal maker or a deal breaker" in any negotiations, the press officer told reporters, adding: "We don't say 'don't pick up the phone unless the single transferable vote is offered for Westminster'."

As news of the apparently dramatic shift in strategy spread, an angry Mr Davey told the BBC: "Ming did not say that in his speech."

And he later issued a statement to the Press Association saying: "This was an unauthorised briefing.

"The tests Ming set for Brown were about his likely Government in a few months' time and not about some post-election situation."

Sir Menzies has refused to speak directly about potential coalition government, insisting his only aim was to maximise the party's number of seats.

But with the potential for a hung Parliament higher than at any point in recent elections, his party could find itself in a pivotal role.

While the press officer insisted Sir Menzies was not setting out specific requirements that would lead to a coalition, he confirmed the tests represented critical indicators of whether it would be possible.

Sir Menzies - a day after successfully seeing off a potentially damaging defeat over nuclear policy thanks to an unprecedented personal intervention - told activists: "Britain needs a government that is prepared to reduce inequality.

"Britain needs a government that will uphold the rule of law. Britain needs a government that will preserve our traditional freedoms. Britain needs a government that will take on the challenge of climate change.

"And Britain needs a government that will restore our international reputation.

"The question is - can Gordon Brown meet that challenge? Does he have the courage to take Britain in a new direction?"

The five tests centred on civil liberties - notably a willingness to scrap planned ID cards, green taxes, breaking the "poverty trap", returning power to local people and reducing the influence of Washington on foreign policy.

"What do we know about Iraq? I'll tell you what we know. The President made the decisions, the Prime Minister argued the case, the Chancellor signed the cheques and the Tories voted it through.

"These are the five tests for Mr Brown if he is going to make the change of direction that Britain needs.

"And if he meets these five tests he will have changed direction. He will have changed direction, and embraced liberal democracy."

Sir Menzies combined his challenge with a stinging attack on Mr Cameron who he said should "grow up".

"Are the Conservatives up to this same challenge? Of course not," he said.

In a swipe at reports of Mr Cameron's schooldays drug taking, he said:
"It's not your youthful indiscretions that worry me - it's your adult misjudgments.

"Teenage kicks are one thing, but you've got to grow up some time.

"It's time you admitted your mistakes, particularly your support for the Iraq war."

Sir Menzies only made one brief mention of proportional representation in his speech - in his closing words to the conference.

"I tell you this now: I'm not content to lead a party whose sole purpose is opposition. Our clear direction must be government," he said.

"And our ambition is to create a different kind of government: a government elected by a system where every vote counts."

The leader, who marked his first year in charge at this weekend's gathering, was involved in former leader Lord (Paddy) Ashdown's abortive "project" to form a closer alliance with Labour - and secure a commitment to PR - after the 1997 election.

During the leadership contest to succeed Charles Kennedy one rival, party president Simon Hughes, ruled out talks with other parties unless electoral reform was on the agenda.

Anonymous said...

I'm partucularly enamoured of "British foreign policy shouldn't be made in Washington". The missing part of the statement, of course, is that Sir Ming thinks that British foreign policy should be made in Brussels.

Anonymous said...

From a PR point of view, many in this country are fed up with Labour, whether it's the empty promises on the NHS, the wasted taxes, the pensioner poverty or the war crimes. So why on earth would the Lib Dems want to work alongside them? The very reason Ming could play kingmaker is because Labour's popularity is falling yet they on gerrymandering/border commission to give Labour an artificial advantage, in other words, Labour could get a tiny proportion of the vote yet its discredited ministers form a government thanks to Ming. I'm sure the public would love it...

Tristan said...

I don't think Ming meant to say that these were what Brown would need to do to get LibDem support in a coalition, but I do think this was not a sensible thing to say - it was bound to be interpreted like that.

There are too many LibDems who do not want to get into bed with Labour, but there are as many who won't get into bed with the Tories... its a difficult line to tread.

Anonymous said...

Ming the useless
He had a go at Alex Salmond a few weeks ago in the same way.
Salmond's comment aftewrwards was that he felt sorry for Ming!!!
You can't get any more ineffective than that:-)

Anonymous said...

To quote the BBC: "A party official suggested it was the first indication Sir Menzies would be interested in forming a coalition if the Lib Dems held the balance of power."

So "a party official" - who might that be, then?

Conspiracy theory follows ... could it be one of the Orange Bookers who actually made this unauthorised briefing? Or at least got a party press secretary to do it on his/her behalf?

Think about it - Iain says the Orange Bookers will be seething - but what if this has been done to expose Ming as "not one of them" - hence somebody people with OB sympathies shouldn't back any longer?

Therefore ... the momentum behind doubts in his leadership grows - and creates a more 'comfortable' environment amongst both MPs and party members for an Orange Booker (potentially the one behind the briefing, or at least a close ally) to challenge Ming's authority *on* the record - rather than in private.

And then ... a new leader in place within months, probably in time for Blair's exit - who can then start to publicly 'undo' Ming's alleged courtship of Labour.


Anonymous said...

"In your youth you were a Tory Boy and your heroes were Michael Howard, Norman Lamont and John Selwyn Gummer."

Selwyn Gummer!!!! Hero? The famous 'worm' of Steve Bell????!! Shome mishtake, shoooorely?

Of course, Ming's remarks could equally well have been turned on Tony Bliar:

"In your youth you were a Tory Boy and your heroes were Selwyn Lloyd, Rab Butler and Harold Macmillan. No wonder your spin-doctors tried to hide the fact (it was not just an ugly rumour) that you liked to play the tosser!"

Anonymous said...

another ed - I think maybe it was a Tory Party official!!

Old BE said...

I suspect the Orange Bookers will be seething.

You mean the Orange Bookers who are proposing wealth supertaxes as a method to restore "equality"?

Very free market.

Anonymous said...


How's the jet lag?

Once you get over it you'll remember that:

(a) The LibDems would no more contemplate any sort of alliance with the Tory Party than they would with the BNP, even if Hell were to freeze over.

(b) Therefore, no matter what Ming may say now, if it came to a hung parliament afer the next election, they will get into bed, formally or informally, with Labour.

(c) If you imagine that his failure to mention proportional representation now will make any perceptable difference to the way people vote in 2 or 3 years time, I have to tell you that you have won the Nigerian National Lottery and when my Nigerian friend gets your $1,000,000, your $1,000,000,000 will be on its way to you.

(d) In short, there will be no Tory government after the next GE, because the party would have to outgun BOTH other parties while Labour only needs to outgun one.

Sorry. I really am; I want a Tory government. But it's just not going to happen any time soon.

Anonymous said...

Come on Ming, it's time to come clean. Admit your guilty secret. "In your youth you were a Liberal Boy and your heroes were Jeremy Thorpe, Jo Grimmond, and Henry Campbell-Bannerman. With pin-ups like that, frankly, I'd want to keep my past private too."

Old BE said...

10.39 wasn't it Lloyd George who was the main Liberal pin-up when Ming was a lad?

Anonymous said...

2br02b said... (c) If you imagine that his failure to mention proportional representation now will make any perceptable difference to the way people vote in 2 or 3 years time,


His failure to mention PR may have little effect on voters but it's his party members and activists he has to worry about.

This briefing has let the cat out of the bag that Ming will sell them short for his own career in government.

Expect trouble. It only takes a small critical mass of disgruntled members to throw a party into internalised blood letting.

Anonymous said...

"he is appearing to talk about collaboration with Labour "

He is (and was) no more doing this than Jimmi Hendrix used to play bach fugues!

One set of thickos seems to have dreamed this up and it is music to the ears of another lot.

Anonymous said...

Ed, would that be Sian Lloyd George?

Anonymous said...

"Henry Campbell-Bannerman"

LOL, very clever.

Man in a Shed said...

Vote Ming get Flash !

Madasafish said...

He (Ming) must be deluded.

To allow a PR person to suggest a coalition is possible is nuts...and not to deny that suggestion immediately it was made.. suggests it was intended.

Coalition with Labour implies association with a failed party (cos why would Labour want a coalition if successful?).

And people do not vote LibDem to vote Labour in power. imo...

So that's two political parties in melt down mode:
1. UKIP: taken 2 years : nearly 100% completed.
2. Lib Dems : Step 1 elect Ming. Step 2 announce they want a coalition.. Step 3? Only another 12 months to catch up on UKIP imo.

It must be a viral disease that is catching ..

Anonymous said...

Personally I couldn't care less about Ming or the LibDems. Ming's attacks on David Cameron are as important as a mosquito bite, they irritate, you scratch, put on some salbe and have another Gin & Tonic, for the quinine.

What's more worrying are the ravings of the disgruntled and disappointed losers from 1997, led by Michael Portillo and Lord Tebbit. If people like them keep sniping from the sidelines then they are playing directly into the hands of the publicity machines of both the LD's & NL's and goodness knows we've had to put up with their machinations for long enough. Despite everything at least David Cameron has started to make people see that there are alternatives and that the Conservative Party is not just a joke, even the knockers Hislop and Crew, are begining to recognise that the people who matter, ie the voters, are begining to believe that a change is possible if not desireable.

Anonymous said...

The 5 tests are, with the exception of getting rid of id cards, really so non specific that Brown will have no difficulty accepting them. Without a commitment to PR they convert the LDs into a Labour owned safety net for a crashing Labour to land on.

Without PR I do not see that activists, let alone the Orange bookers can work for this.

Anonymous said...

O would disagree with Anon that Ming has been in any way whatsoever shrewd. In negotiations you don't give away your biggest point years before the nrgotiation statrs, You don't say we will only sell to one buyer. You don't tell people swithering between you & the Tories, that you are committed to putting in Labour.

There is nothing possible that Ming or the LDs could gain from saying this, even if you were intent on doing it all along.

I do not see any way in which anybody not otherwise inclined to Labour can vote LD so long as Ming is in charge. Somebody is going to have to stand against him.

Tartan Hero said...

I think Minging Campbell has a hidden agenda with his 5 tests..

read more here