Saturday, September 22, 2007

Too Merciless on Ming?

Sir Menzies Campbell
I didn't have much time to get online yesterday, but courtesy of the wonders of the Blackberry I did get a couple of e-mails questioning whether I had actually listened to Menzies Campbell's address to the Liberal Democrat conference.

Having a browse through some of the blogs I respect I did appear to be in a minority of one in my description of the performance as lacklustre, with commentators such as Shane Greer, at the time stand-in diarist for Iain Dale, lavishing praise on Ming's performance.

Well yes I did listen to the speech live, and concerned that I might have just been in a foul mood at the time I went and listened to it again, and I have to say I remain largely unmoved.

I suspect the difference in attitude comes down to expectation management. I've never been that convinced that Ming is such a terrible leader for the Lib Dems. It is true that some of his policy announcements of late have left me disappointed at best and pretty speechless at worst. This is hardly surprising coming from a very different political persuasion from the particular wing of Liberal Democrat that Ming represents, and is a wholly different issue from that of the fitness to lead.

I actually think Ming has shown a great deal of dignity in his leadership of the party, especially in view of the circumstance in which in inherited it. Some of the media labelling of him as being somehow older than his years is, in my opinion, just lazy journalism, reporting sheep like a consensus viewpoint that is just as insubstantial as the column inches of David Cameron's supposed lack of substance.

I expected nothing less from Ming's speech than a confidently delivered, often witty and, to the party faithful, inspiring effort. In my opinion that's what we got, but under the circumstances, both personal and for the party as a whole I was expecting something more, which for me simply was not there. Perhaps as is often the case for myself, when listening to Liberal Democrat leaders, the inability to link the generally admirable philosophy of liberalism to policies that always seem to militate towards an ever larger state consuming more of the countries resources.

Perhaps lacklustre was a little harsh, but I guess from my own standpoint there has always been something of a hole in the logic of the type of liberalism represented by the Liberal Democrats, and as such many of their great set piece speeches will always seem to be lacking something.

Moving on from one unfairly criticised from being to old, to one often unfairly criticised as being too young, it is great to see that the aforementioned Mr Greer has started his own blog. Always one of the more considered presenters on 18 Doughty Street, and seeming less focused on the minutiae of internal party politics than some, I'm sure it will be a great read. I might criticise some of his willingness sometimes to accept the argument of state necessity as justification for interference with personal freedoms, but overall I agree with much more of what he says than that which I take issue with.

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