Iain Dale has written about the vultures encircling Ming as his opinion poll ratings continue to tank.
The LibDem leader’s likeliest successor, party home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg, wins a glowing double page
interview in this morning’s Mail on Sunday (not online). It begins
with this introduction:
"He may be the charismatic and cultured rising star who
is expected to become the next LibDem leader – but our interviewer
[Petronella Wyatt] is more intrigued by Nick Clegg’s amber hair,
turquoise eyes and past life as a ski instructor."
Petronella is hardly the most politically challenging of interviewers and we learn little of Mr Clegg’s worldview but these are some of the highlights from her encounter with the LibDem MP for Sheffield Hallam:
- Clegg on Ming: "Ming is not boring. He tells very funny stories… They are usually about dead people."
- Clegg on Cameron: "Is he for real? Is he sincere? What he says about the environment and crime and everything is such a volte-face from what he was involved in earlier. I like to think I don’t do phoney things."
- Cameron and the core Tory vote: "I bet before the General Election Cameron will make some traditionalist speeches to win back the heartlands."
- Wyatt on Clegg: "His views are staunchly capitalist. He opposes a top rate of tax of 50p. He wants to help middle income earners whom, he says vehemently, have been squeezed by Labour taxes. While Ming is a Left-winger, Clegg would be more likely to form a coalition with the Tories were there to be a hung parliament."
- Wyatt’s conclusion: "It occurs to me that Clegg has every requisite. He is fiscally Right-wing, but contemporary; he is charismatic without being smarmy; young without being immature, idealistic without sounding insincere and has no past to reinvent. He is also cultured, with a penchant for theatre, including Beckett and Eugene O’Neill. If Clegg were leader of the LibDems, both the Tories and Labour would have a great deal to worry about… Look out, everyone: The Niceman Cometh."
Matthew d’Ancona advised the LibDems to choose Nick Clegg when Charles Kennedy resigned. Nick Clegg would certainly compete for all the same floating voters being wooed by Dave Cameron. The big question is not whether Ming will go but whether the LibDems’ activists could stomach the Orange Book liberalism of ‘Cleggie’. His election to the LibDem leadership – providing it didn’t cause an unlikely bloodbath
in his party – would severely challenge the Cameron strategy at the same
time as it would make a Tory-LibDem coalition deal more likely.
(The Wyatt interview is a sign that the Mail group feel warm towards him. Mr Clegg has often been seen in the Atrium cafe of Parliament’s Portcullis House with Mail journalists).
PS The Observer and News of the World are both reporting possible comebacks from Charles Kennedy. This from The Observer:
Kennedy is to relaunch his career by presenting a television
documentary and delivering a major speech to the Liberal Democrat
conference. With whispering about Sir Menzies Campbell’s lacklustre
start as leader growing louder, Kennedy’s comeback will cause
consternation among Campbell’s allies, concerned at the party’s weak
performance in opinion polls. Many believe Kennedy made a more
effective leader before he resigned at the beginning of the year after
trouble with drink. Kennedy will front a Channel 4 politics programme
on Friday, the latest sign that he is ending the self-imposed silence
he has maintained since his resignation. Last month, he appeared on
BBC1’s Question Time, where he received a warm welcome from fellow
panellists and the audience – but parried a question about whether he
might one day reclaim the party leadership."