Opinion: Ming keeps his head down and his mouth shut

Carl Quilliam writes…

DimblebyOn Thursday night Ming Campbell made what can only be described as his most recent appearance on Question Time. For large portions of the show he gave a reasonable performance, no more than I would expect from a party leader. However, there were a few glaring omissions as well as some quite strange statements that make me personally to further doubt his leadership. When he was asked about how he became party leader, he firstly seemed to delight in the insinuation that he knifed Charles Kennedy take the leadership and then, when he opened his mouth, he said: ‘I kept my head down and my mouth shut’.

Two points arise from this statement; the first is what does that actually mean? And the second point, which was raised by Peter Mandelson (perhaps the only time I will ever agree with him) is, this man supposedly wants to be Prime Minister, or more likely a king maker at the next election, if he gets things done by keeping his mouth shut and his head down then what’s the point of voting for him?

He was also asked about his views on Gordon Brown and in my opinion was decidedly uncritical of him. Ming of course parroted the party line about, calling for an immediate general election and Gordon being responsible for the Iraq war as much as Blair etc. but these were decidedly dilute statements particularly in contrast to his previous attacks on David Cameron. Whilst I realize that Ming has a predisposition towards a coalition with Brown as opposed to Cameron after the next general election, it is bizarre as an opposition party that we appear to be attacking the opposition more forcefully than the Government.

My final point is a point solely about presentation, or the absence of it. I have seen Ming on a number of political programmes recently talking about David Cameron and his lack of policies, which is fair comment. However, what is unnecessary is the phrase he keeps using, that he seems to have taken a liking to which is to say about David Cameron; ‘its like that old American saying, “Where’s the Beef”’. Firstly very few people in this country have any clue what that is and secondly (and more embarrassingly) it is from an old American advert for Wendy’s Burgers from the 80s and is used by Americans, if at all, as a joke. It is not a cool snappy sound bite that the media will pick up on and run with, as demonstrated by the tumbleweed that rolls passed every time he tries to use it, it is in fact embarrassing.

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  • Tom Papworth 12th May '07 - 3:58pm

    I haven’t seen it, yet (it’s on a DVD somewhere) but a few points about your post:

    1) “if he gets things done by keeping his mouth shut and his head downthen what’s the point of voting for him?”

    What matters, surely, is that he gets things done! Sometimes I wish all politics could be a bit more low-key.

    2) I think we’re focussing fire on the Tories because they’re more of a threat to us now than Labour. But I agree that we shouldn’t be going easy on the Government.

    And I despise Ming’s presumption in favour of Labour.

    3) Walter Mondale used the “Where’s the Beef” line to successfully undermine Gary Hart.

    There’s nothing wrong with it as such; the embarrassing thing is that Ming INSISTS on telling us ABOUT it. Just say it, man! Don’t try to tell us how clever you are because of your knowledge of 1980s American politics.

    (Mondale, incidentally, defeated his opposition rival, only to lose to the incumband leader. There might be a lesson in that!)

  • Chris Rennard 12th May '07 - 5:59pm

    Not the Reagan/Mondale debate but the Mondale attack ads on the insurgent campaign of Gary Hart to win Democratic nomination from Mondale.

  • Hywel Morgan 12th May '07 - 10:07pm

    Not sure “Mondale used this in 84” is the best recommendation for a campaign technique you could ever make! 🙂

  • I noticed that he completely skipped over the question about education. It was odd. He said how good primary education is, then he said comprehensive education was not good, and then without explaining why that is, he quickly moved on to Iraq.
    He did flatten Mandalson at the end over the reasons for going to war in Iraq, but otherwise I thought he was mediocre.

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