This was pretty much inevitable. The combination of terrible opinion poll ratings and Brown’s decision to delay an election until at least 2009 gave the LibDems the opportunity to oust a leader who had failed to connect with the public.
It’s odd that Ming hasn’t appeared in public. Perhaps he hasn’t resigned but the men in sandals have him tied up in the basement of Cowley Street! As Ben Brogan says: "Show us the body"!
The FT blog is describing Ming as a "broken man". Don’t feel too sorry for him, however. He was ruthless in ousting Charles Kennedy. If he hadn’t jumped he would have been pushed. Hardly any MPs had come to his public defence in recent days.
Ming was a big Tory asset. Anyone who wanted the best for David Cameron would have preferred Ming to stay. The Tories were doing very well in southern marginals. Guido’s Save Ming campaign came too late.
The Kennedy factor. Iain Dale blogs that Charles Kennedy is the only man who can lift the LibDems up to 20%. I don’t agree with that but a Kennedy return would make the contest very interesting.
Clegg is the man. In my opinion – the LibDems should choose Nick Clegg if they have any sense. I’ve worried about him for some time. Guess who has written this tonight: "He’s articulate, personable, simpatico and modest. He speaks five languages fluently. He’s a proper parliamentarian, equally at ease in committees and on the floor of the house. He’s temperate in his opinions, and courteous to those – like me – who find those opinions risible."? Answer: Dan Hannan. Dan knew Clegg when he was an MEP. He also knew the other leading contender, Huhne. He writes about both here.
How should Tories react? We should watch and wait mainly but Clegg, if he was to win and he’s the bookies’ favourite, will probably save a lot of southern LibDem seats. That’s no reason for Tory panic but it underlines the importance of the Conservatives making progress in the north and Midlands – against Labour.
The manner of the leadership contest will be important. Many LibDems might object to Clegg’s Orange Book tendencies. It could get ugly. After dumping two leaders in two years the Libs are certainly looking less nice than they like to pretend. The LibDem ruling body has already announced the timetable. The new leader will be in place by 17th December.
This is a big opportunity for the LibDem blogs. LabourHome failed to take off during the Blair-Brown succession and the Deputy Leadership contest. Watch LibDemVoice, in particular, and see if it can become the place for LibDem conversation. It has lacked bite up until now – avoiding a lot of the difficult debates.
Oaten for leader!#*? Silliest question of the evening: BBC News 24 to Mark Oaten – "Can you rule yourself out?" Now Oaten as leader would be a dream scenario.