Saturday, October 13, 2007

Time for Ming to go?

So with the threat of a snap election out of the way the rumblings against Ming have begun. At times like these it is tempting to circle the wagons, mutter darkly about media agendas and cling to the evidence that we always slump during the mid-term. As a natural loyalist I honestly wish I could drink the kool aid too.

But, I can't get the image of a slowly declining yellow line out of my head.

The line that tracks our seemingly inexorable decline in the polls.

I can't shake the memory of a candidate in one of our key target seats reacting with derision at the idea of Ming coming to visit during a recent local by-election. In years past a visit from the leader was something to be trumpeted, spread across the front of a tabloid, and the picture reused ad-nausium. Now? If you were a local resident you would never have known he was there.

I can't forget the feeling of tramping round the streets in the last couple of weeks knowing that whatever we did on the ground the national position meant we were toast.

Others, more experienced (more disciplined?) caution us against playing into the media's agenda. I have sympathy with Stephen's position. It is clear that some in the media have an agenda they wish to push; and others are willing to follow the narrative rather than the truth. Maybe we shouldn't feed it. Maybe we should put our head in the sand and hope it goes away.

I can't.

I don't blame Ming and his team for being lumped with a media that had taken against him before he had chance to establish himself. As I wrote in May, we have Charlie Kennedy to blame for that. If he hadn't clung on when it was clear that his position had become untenable there wouldn't have been the need for such a botched assassination.

What I can blame team Ming for is not being able to change that narrative. Sure the media is against us, sure it must be like pushing water up hill, and sure, I couldn't do it. But suck it up! Its your job. If you can't deliver get out of the way.

Not that I would, or could, argue that the Ming Dynasty has been a disaster for the party. Far from it. It is clear that after the chaos of the later part of the Kennedy era the centre of the party is much more professional, and I think we are slowly groping towards a coherent policy platform. One that is both traditionally liberal, but also potentially popular. I suspect that if an election had been called this autumn I would have had less problems defending our 2007 manifesto on the door step than the 2005 edition.

That is what makes the current situation so annoying. We have policies that could be popular, if only we could present them. But we can't. A strong spring conference speech is overshadowed by ill considered briefing about coalitions with Labour. Our brief opportunity to sell our plans to cut income tax by 20% is drowned out by talk of “hammering the rich”. For Christ's sake this 2007 not 1977. We are supposed to be Liberals not the bloody Socialist Workers.

I respect Ming immensely. I voted for him last year because in a political world dominated by spin and sophistry I thought that he would stand out as a straight shooter. Unfortunately at times it seems like he is shooting straight at his foot.

All true, some may say, but what is the alternative?

Another bloody coup and all the damage that would do to us. Followed by a jump into the unknown with either Chris or Nick. How can I know that that would solve our problems? I don't. But I do know that for Ming the die seems to have been cast. We have choice. Hunker down with Ming and hope to minimise our losses at the next election. Or take a chance that a new leader would drawn a line under the last two and a bit years and gain us enough space for us to put forward our alternative to this tired Labour Government and an intellectually bankrupt Conservative opposition.

In May after the disappointing local elections I thought that realistically we had until the end of the summer to change the narrative or risk losing much of what we have gained over the last few years. Well summer has come and gone, and things (if you believe the polls) have only got worse.

So, with regret, and a fervent wish that the world was fair, I think its time to call for Ming to fall on his sword. Go now Sir Menzies, please. For I suspect that we all respect you too much to do what is necessary if you don't turn this round.


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6:38 am  

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