I was phoned yesterday by a journalist. This happens to me about once every three years, so I ringed the day in red on my calendar and gave myself one extra lump of sugar in my tea.
Any road up, she wanted to know whether there were rumblings in the ranks about Ming's leadership. To cut a long story short, 20 minutes later I think I convinced her that there are no serious rumblings.
I do remember when there were serious rumblings in the ranks about the leadership. It was about six months before Paddy retired as leader when he unilaterally did something outrageous with Tony Blair (I forget what) and had everyone on their high horse as a result.
But apart from reading about three blogs against and about six for Ming, I have seriously not heard anyone locally or elsewhere grumbling about his leadership.
Of course, the council elections were not stupendous. But it takes a long jump to imagine that a change of leader would have helped.
I trust Ming and so do the electorate (more than the other leaders), according to a recent poll. He is a good Liberal with a real track record. He has shown superb sure-footedness with the Green tax and Trident motions at conference. His autumn speech was electrifying. He hasn't made any mistakes (save the silly spinning of his speech last autumn) and he has certainly not done, threatened to do or looked at all likely, to do anything which party members would regard as illiberal or undemocratic (which is more than what can be said for the other party leaders). Yes, I would love to see him doing some high profile initiatives, like Paddy's "sleeves rolled up" tour of the country. But all in all, Ming is a good leader.
When you have supported the party for 37 odd years since our MPs could fit in a cab, you don't panic after a "mixed bag" of council election results. And, as someone said, we are not a particularly "leader-centric" party, anyway. I don't think Huhne or Clegg would have done any better at the local elections, if they had been leader. I also agree with another poster that both Clegg and Huhne have still not shown themselves to be as high profile or effective as frontbench spokespeople as Ming was when he was front bench foreign affairs spokesperson. And I agree with another poster who said that it was Charlie-boy who got us into this mess, i.e. a situation where the only narrative available to the media is "leader in trouble".
I was glad to see the person I supported for the leadership, Chris Huhne, chiming in on BBC News online, in support of Ming.
Of course, we are cognisant of the Cameron-effect. But I believe that Ming is a good leader for the opposite of all the reasons why Cameron is a bad leader. That is, all the criteria on which David Cameron is weak are the very criteria on which Menzies is strong: Menzies is experienced, sure-footed on policy and eminently trustworthy; whereas Cameron is inexperienced, highly shaky on policy and fly-by-night.
Think of it in this way. Imagine we were led now by a David Cameron-type person, rather than Ming. This imaginary leader would be a suitable mirror image of Cameron for the LibDems. (Remember, a mirror shows opposites). Let's call this imaginary leader, Smart Alec.
Smart Alec is in his early thirties, very good looking (without even Cameron's double chin and paunch), with a lovely young family, who became an MP in 2001 after a relatively short political research career and time as a PR person for what many people regard to have been one of the worst television companies in British commercial television history.
Smart Alec wrote the LibDem 2005 election manifesto, which was described as "the most left wing liberal manifesto" in British history. Mr Alec became LibDem party leader in December 2005.
Mr Alec has got a lot of media coverage for the LibDems but has done so by creating a "narrative of inverse paradigm" for the LibDems. So, therefore, he does what people would least expect a leader of the LibDems to do, so that people become convinced that the LibDems are no longer what they thought them to be previously - i.e. a leftish of centre, liberal party.
Therefore Smart Alec has launched a series of surprising media stunts. He has appeared with a gathering of Daily Express readers complaining about asylum seekers. He has attended Milwall Football Club and gone into the terraces with skinhead supporters. He has put the Union Jack flag up on a flag staff in his front garden. He has invited photographers in to his front room when he watches England playing football on the telly, showing them his pile of lager cans and fag ends and his beery skinhead mates.
On the policy front Smart Alec has done little in detail. However, he has jettisoned the party's traditional support for proportional representation and increased investment in public services. He supported the continued military action indefinitely in Iraq and pledged to increase Trident warheads to combat the threat from Iran and Korea.
Now who wants a "Cameron" leading the LibDems?