Surely he’ll still be leader in two years time?
After a conference which started with a gloomy opinion poll the Lib Dem leader goes into today’s session in Brighton knowing that he has a fight on his hands over the leadership’s taxation plans. With Lib Dem conferences it is always hard judging how key votes will go but there’s little doubt that the “50% tax” faction has got a fair degree of support and it could be that Ming is defeated.
For as a general rule the party activists tend to be more radical and left wing than those who vote for the party and this always means the leadership is treading a tight-rope. How do they develop a policy platform that they think will have public appeal and keep the activists on side at the same time?
For Ming Campbell is learning this week that unless you can ride two horses at the same time you should not be in the circus.
A key challenge for Ming is maintaining his authority in the face of polls like the Populus one for the Times which had 47% of all voters agreeing that the party “made a big mistake in choosing Menzies Campbell”. What was particularly hard was that amongst Lib Dem voters the proportion was 51%.
A factor that will be helpful to the leader was the response that the party home affairs spokesman, Nick Clegg, appeared to get yesterday. Based on the TV coverage of his big speech Clegg, who is tipped strongly as Ming’s successor, got a standing ovation but you did not get the feeling that the party wanted him to be in the top job immediately.
Unless there’s a rejection of Campbell’s proposals today on a scale that undermines his leadership it is hard to predict anything other than that Campbell will be leading his party into the General Election.
The one active betting market on Campbell’s future is the spread from BetHilo on how many months he will serve in the job. Including his start month of March 2006 the latest spread is 26 – 29 months. So a “buy” bet would go into profit in August 2008.
Provided Ming survives today relatively intact then a bet might look attractive – but wait for that vote.
Congratulations to Stephen Tall, a regular contributor to PBC, on being chosen as “The Lib Dem Blogger of the Year”. You can view his site here.