Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thoughts prompted by Ming

Shock doesn't begin to describe it. The first inkling we all had was at 6:15 yesterday when a pager message told me that there would be a speech by the party president. I'm usually quick to see connections but on this occasion I was not very quick on the uptake and pondered aloud on what this could mean.
The penny soon dropped but we could still hardly believe it. The initial reaction was that Ming had done a very honourable thing. It is never easy to give up power of any kind (even being Leader of the Lib Dems has some attractions) and it is a measure of Ming's character that he put the interests of the party first (or what he saw as such).

Sure there had been a few mutterings and mumblings but what leader is not discussed by his or her party at some stage? There had certainly been no concerted plot or campaign and although it is looking as if some people had spoken to Ming over the past week or so it is not clear who or what. I am pretty damn certain that there was nothing co-ordinated.

My personal hope was that Ming would come out fighting, ride the storm and fulfil his conference pledge to make age an issue - because with age comes experience. The polls are volatile at the moment and I thought that with a concerted effort we could recover.

So, I was furious when I finally caught up with some of the headlines and read that this was all apparently a plot. There were no "men in grey sandals" - there was no cabal .
What this was really about was the media not wishing to take any of the blame for what had happened.

The reality is that ever since Ming was elected there has been a media obsession with his age. This reached such a pitch that the messages were starting to be played back on the doorstep. I for one wish that Ming had stayed so that, as a party, we could have fought age discrimination in all its many and ugly forms.

Ot strikes me that some of the journalists who were so keen to make a story about age just might be feeling a little guilty tonight.

But we are where we are. Ming's quick, clean decision means that we choose a new leader. That leader owes a huge debt of thanks to Ming because under his leadership the party now has a much stronger financial and campaigning base. All in all an ideal springboard for Ming's successor.