I have to confess I’d be happier if I woke up tomorrow and MC was back in his natural stamping ground of foreign affairs and someone, I’ll take practically anyone, else was leader. He’s been in post for a year and bit now, and my personal view is that if he heads up a GE campaign, he’ll be awful. That’s a view I’ve held since before he became leader, and the most recent elections only serve to bolster it a little bit. I’ve cut him slack, I will continue to cut him
slack for another year, but the purpose of my post was to sound an alarm bell.
I can perfectly understand your desire, and indeed the desire of the majority of the LD blogosphere to talk up the results, but statements like “on Thursday there were losses in some places, but gains in others” are, like James says, bordering on Blairite spin! In a major test of public opinion across the UK we lost four councils. Net, we lost hundreds of councillors. That’s a reversal of fortune, and it’s not a minor one. I don’t think anyone needs to get a grip, as I don’t think anyone is reading too much in to what happened yesterday - but that doesn’t mean that what happened yesterday wasn’t very serious.
In England, and to a lesser extent Wales, the momentum is with the Conservatives, and crucially - with David Cameron. Above all else, we discovered today that middle England is beginning to fall in love David Cameron, and it seems highly possible that at this point he’s doing the necessary things to walk up Downing Street to number 10 at the next election. Arguing that they should have achieved a couple of percentage points more than they did is folly when they’re ten points ahead of Labour in the polls, and nearly a thousand councillors up tonight.
Conversely, tonight indicates that middle England has not warmed to our leader. After his first full year as leader, he failed his first major electoral test (bearing in mind the caveats above). This firt electoral test seems to indicate that Ming Campbell is an electoral liability - not an asset. Tonight, the prospect of how the public will respond to our leader in a General Election is not a happy one. It seems likely that the party will allow Ming Campbell to stay in place to try a second electoral test next year - he won himself some significant political capital at the most recent party conference. Yesterday and today, he spent that capital. If he fails his next major electoral test, beyond doubt he will have to go. The challenge for Ming
himself tonight is to take a good hard look in the mirror, and decide whether he should jump before his party considers pushing him. He has to ask himself if, when the lights are on him in a General Election, the public will respond warmly to him and deliver the Liberal Democrats a boost in seats - or whether Cameron’s Tories will deliver us, and him, a brutal squeeze. I suspect that after the last fourty-eight hours, he knows the answer to that question.