How long can the Lib Dem leader withstand the media pressure?
It’s perhaps an example of the Lib Dem version of “sod’s law” that just as they gather for their spring conference in Harrogate hoping for a publicity boost that we have the latest developments in the cash for honours case and the gagging order that has been taken out against the BBC.
For it’s hard enough grabbing media attention as the third party and then they get shoved down the bulletin because of this story. The lack of media attention has been made worse now that the Tories have got their media act together and most of the political focus is on the twilight weeks of the Blair government.
You’ve also got to feel a touch of pity for poor Ming because whenever he is interviewed the first thing he has to deflect are questions about his age and his leadership.
It was no different last night when he faced the cameras on BBC’s Newsnight and was presented with the findings on an ICM poll which showed that just 6% of those interviewed wanted him as their next PM.
Even more irritating was the poll finding that 49% said they thought his predecessor, Charles Kennedy, would make the best Lib Dem leader compared with just 22% that opted for him.
Which brings me to the small spread bet I placed on Ming Campbell on April 5th 2006. The bet was on how many months he would continue as leader and I “bought” at the 25 level. This means that the bet goes into profit from May 2008 and every month that he continues thereafter my winnings increase.
At the time of making the bet I wrote “Barring accidents and Mingâ€™s health – which thankfully looks OK – it is hard to see how he is not going to serve for another two years. After the trauma of Charles Kennedy the Lib Dems are not, surely, going to get rid of a second leader in such a short time period? Ming will go on to fight the next election and beyond.”
I think that judgement still stands. I cannot see another move being made against a Lib Dem leader this side of the General Election. The only doubt is Ming himself. Could he decide to jack it in?
He’ll get a good standing ovation in Harrogate and provided that the May 3rd elections are not a disaster for the party then I think he will stay.
If by any remote chance Ming steps aside and the party decides to follow the polls and bring back Kennedy then I will pick up a nice profit on a 100-1 bet that I placed at the end of March last year.