Tuesday, September 4, 2007

High praise for Ming from the Independent

Sir Ming is a bit of a throwback to an earlier, more innocent political age. He has never knowingly uttered a "soundbite". He thinks that spin is something that should be left to cricketers. If interviewed, he tries to answer the question rather than deliver pre-cooked clich├ęs. When Sir Ming appears on public debating programmes such as Question Time or Any Questions – something the leaders of the two main parties regard as beneath them – he seldom fails to impress with the courtesy and thoughtfulness of his contributions. He is – right down to the dazzling shine on his lace-up shoes – a gent of the old school, something which once would have appealed to The Daily Telegraph (and may still do to its readers). Menzies Campbell has something else over the other party leaders: he asked the right questions – in public – over the invasion of Iraq. The four questions he put in the critical House of Commons debate in September 2002 were not answered then and still resonate today: "What is the exit strategy? Who will replace Saddam Hussein? How long would coalition troops be required to remain in Iraq? Will Iraq split up?"

It's true that Campbell is not, in general, a confident performer in the House of Commons; but he can show a feline savagery when provoked. I especially enjoyed his put-down of Quentin Davies during another debate on Iraq, when that extraordinarily self-important backbencher kept interrupting him: "I am sorry for the Honourable Gentleman if these matters require a level of intellectual engagement that he finds difficult or embarrassing."

Yesterday Ming Campbell had further vindication: only a week after he had challenged Gordon Brown to accept that it was time to withdraw our troops from Basra, the entire British force has retreated to the airport – where its only function is to protect itself. That was in fact a rare example of Ming Campbell engaging in full-frontal combat with his old friend (and new Prime Minister).

Hope you enjoyed that from Dominic Lawson in the Independent today.

Thanks to Barcharters Anonymous.

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