Has Ming done enough to stop the seepage?

Has Ming done enough to stop the seepage?

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    Will a steady PMQ performance and tax cut promises bring support back?

Newly released data from the latest Mori poll and today’s reports of police investigations into the party’s controversial £2.4m election donation are a sharp reminder that Ming Campbell has still got a lot to do to steady the nerves of his party.

The poll taken at the end of May shows Ming with a 9% deficit in his approval ratings – depths that no Lib Dem leader has ever experienced before, and contrasts sharply with the positive figures that Charles Kennedy used to achieve. A positive note from the poll is that the party would have been at 20% instead of 18% if the Mori headline figure had not been restricted to just those saying they were certain to vote.

    But for all of this the past two days might be seen as the moment Ming turned things round.

His confident PMQ performance put Tony Blair on the back foot and contrasted sharply with David Cameron. I liked his quiet approach, not trying to shout over the rabble, but letting the chamber’s automatically adjusting audio system do his job for him.

In terms of its media impact the policy speech could not have come out better. After PR the policy for which the party is best known had been the commitment to increase income tax to fund better public services and to move from that is a very major development. It’s hard for the Lib Dems to command the headlines and yesterday must have been encouraging.

But a major concern, surely, is whether the overall strategy is right. Will yesterday’s policy changes help it win Labour votes?

I’ve noted here before that the Lib Dems seem to be totally obsessed with Cameron’s Tories and, for me at least, they appear to be going after the wrong target. Progress at the next election, like the last, will come from picking up Labour waverers. The prospect of winning over Tory votes is much more limited. The sooner the party realises this the better.

The single thing that binds Labour together is that it is in power. Once that slips away, whether ar the next election or the one after, anything could happen and the Lib Dems need to be ready for the moment

A big reason why PMQs worked for Ming on Wednesday was that he was attacking Blair over his signature policy – supporting the American over Iraq and the war on terrorism. If Iran becomes more serious then this will be the time for Ming.

Meanwhile all these developments have had almost no impact on any betting market.

Mike Smithson

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