In a speech that also set five tests for Gordon Brown the LibDem leader
has made a strong attack on David Cameron (the full text of Ming
Campbell’s speech can be read on the LibDem website):
"Dave’s been ducking and weaving. He wants to keep his past private. Well, I can understand that. If I had his past I’d want to keep it private too. Come on Dave – it’s time to come clean. Admit your guilty secret. In your youth, you were a Tory Boy and your heroes were Michael Howard, Norman Lamont and John Selwyn Gummer. You know, with pin ups like that, frankly, I’d want to keep my past private too. But seriously, it’s not your youthful indiscretions that worry me – it’s your adult misjudgements. Teenage kicks are one thing, but you’ve got to grow up some time. It’s time you admitted your mistakes. Particularly your support for the Iraq war."
Ming makes his intervention after a narrow conference victory on Trident. By 454 to 414 he defeated a call for Trident to be scrapped. The strength of the anti-Trident vote is a reminder of the gulf between Tory and LibDem activists.
An ICM survey for Friday night’s Newsnight found that Ming Campbell has made little positive impact on voters over the last year: just 6% thought he would make the best Prime Minister. 28% chose Gordon Brown and 29% opted for David Cameron. 49% to 22% believe that Charles Kennedy would make a better LibDem leader than Ming Campbell.
The Economist, however, has offered some reasons for Ming to be cheerful:
- Last year’s green tax switch at last year’s unified Party Conference – a policy switch that has been partly copied by the Tories – "Senior Lib Dems claim to be delighted that Mr Cameron has worked so hard to put climate change on the agenda. They point to polling data that suggests voters still think the Lib Dems are easily the greenest of the mainstream parties. The more salient environmental issues become, they argue, the better the Lib Dems should do."
- The fact that the media has shifted away from his shortcomings to those of Brown;
- That foreign policy is in the news and the LibDems are the only party to have opposed the Iraq war;
- "Given Mr Cameron’s grab for traditional Lib Dem voters on the environment, civil liberties and localism, the party’s poll rating, hovering around 20%, has been impressive."
- The growing possibility of a hung parliament where the LibDems would hold the balance of power.