This has not been a week where the Liberal Democrats have covered themselves in glory. It seems as if, finally, all of the sniping and bile directed at Menzies Campbell has told and has resulted in his resignation; for the second time in two years we have some rather unedifying political chicanery to contend with.
For all of the warm words that accompanied yesterday evening’s announcement there has been little evidence of bonhomie in the party recently. When senior figures in a political party throw out interview comments that damn the leader with such faint praise, you know things are bad. So it was this weekend just gone. Campbell must have despaired to see his own generals effectively saying in public that they had little or no confidence in his ability to lead and that, I suppose, must have made up his mind. He couldn’t be bothered to put his head above the parapet for this rabble any longer.
It’s strange to see such in-fighting when, in real terms, there is so little at stake. The LibDems are trailing in the polls, but this is not really unexpected given the rather febrile political atmosphere right now. And yes, Campbell’s performance has stuttered, never really hitting the ground running after a stuttering start. But the snideness about his age really is not acceptable. Ken Clarke is in his 60’s and his age was not really made a great deal of when he ran for the Conservative leadership. But for some reason, Campbell’s age stuck as an issue and the media would not let it go away.
More importantly to me though, the LibDems no longer look a viable option as a voting choice. One of the reasons I had some affinity with them was that, at very least, there seemed to be some sense of a wider ambit and some integrity within its ranks that reached beyond the rather tawdry in-fighting of the “big two”. The intervention that removed Charles Kennedy dented my faith in that somewhat, while this latest episode has only made me believe that there are just as many feral chancers waiting to plunge the stiletto in here as anywhere else.
Make no mistake, this has done the LibDems no favours at all and, far from clearing the decks and improving their fortunes, this latest episode may only have served to precipitate their decline even further. Would you buy a used car from these men?