Liberator has never held back about criticising leaders and calling for their resignation in the past. Although the esteemed radical organ had had some stern words to say about Ming's dithering after Gordon Brown's job offers to Lib Dems, only a few days ago I received my copy in which it gave its opinion that he should stay until the next General Election.
So what happens? As soon as Liberator takes his part, the leader goes and resigns:-(
I have to say I agreed with Liberator's position - much to my surprise. I would rather have held a worm in my hand and then gone skiing (anyone who knows me will know just how much I hate those things) than have had him as leader in the first place. I thought he would not be inclusive and would forget the party and the activists. I have had to eat a few words. While there were some aspects of his public performance which were sometimes not as dynamic as I would have liked, he had done much to make the Party's structures more professional and his office was more friendly to the party at large. This was a vast improvement on previous leaders who allowed their offices to treat party members and activists as if they were something he stepped in.
I don't believe he was pushed - although I don't doubt that some people wanted to see him go. I think he looked at the polls and the media stuff about his age and realised that there would be another two years of this and then he may have to face a general election on the brink of his 68th birthday. If the papers were portraying him as a skeleton now, then maybe he foresaw that the cartoons would get ever more macabre as time went on.
No doubt he looks older than he is. However, I'm 40 and I reckon he is more physically fit than I am. I feel quite enraged that the media has effectively perpetuated this ageist nonsense. The heart of our belief as Liberals is that we think everyone should be treated fairly regardless of gender, age, race, religion, or sexual orientation.
Ming is 100% a Liberal and could be relied upon to defend these core values. He has dignity and integrity. We have to be aware that it was his influence that led to our opposing the war in Iraq, securing us our best result for years in 2005. His political courage is probably unrivalled. He took a huge gamble at Harrogate this year by speaking in the Trident debate - his support for the motion swayed he waverers and ensured victory for his side. Even though I am passionately opposed to the replacement of Trident, I had to admire the gamble that he took. If the vote had gone the other way, his leadership would have been over, messily, at the start of the Holyrood campaign.
What Ming does not have, and I doubt anyone could really say otherwise, was the ability to connect with the electorate, either individually or in media interviews. There's no getting away from the fact that he did seem awkward and shy on walkabouts. People want their political leaders to be approachable and Ming's aloofness was the biggest problem of his leadership. Unf
I wish him and Elspeth all the best for the future and I hope that we as a party are able to ensure that he is given a prominent role in his area of expertise - foreign affairs.