Ming: Liberal to the core and ready for election

It may not have the passion of “cut me I bleed red”, but Ming Campbell today said if he was cut in half “liberal” would run through his top half and “liberal democrat” through his bottom.

Likening himself to a dyed stick of Brighton rock, Sir Menzies defended his leadership of the Liberal Democrats, thereby addressing head on the issue that threatens to overshadow this year’s autumn conference.

The party and its values are part of my life, he told an audience in Brighton, and there is nothing as satisfying as leading a party like the Liberal Democrats.

Challenged to get his age “out the way”, the 66-year-old politician choose to paraphrase Ronald Reagan: “Age is a real problem but I promise not to take advantage of the youth and inexperience of my opponents.”

Lib Dem strategists have told Sir Menzies to make a virtue of his age, contrasting his own judgement and experience to David Cameron’s.

Sir Menzies hit out at the Tory leader today, arguing his description of “anarchy in the UK was “ludicrous and irresponsible”.

In a resolutely positive approach to politics, Sir Menzies acknowledged there were problems in modern Britain – directing particular criticism at Labour’s refusal to stem the growing gap between rich and poor – but said Britain was otherwise a great country that has lost its way.

Education should be fundamental to overcoming deprivation, he argued, followed by adequate housing.

In a question and answer session with Sandi Toksvig, Sir Menzies said Labour had allowed the number of people waiting for social housing to increase by 50 per cent, while Mr Brown has refused to be drawn on what proportion of his three million new homes will be social housing.

Turning to Mr Brown’s policies, Sir Menzies argued the prime minister should call an election and win a mandate, pointing out the electorate had been led to believe Tony Blair would serve a full third term.

However, he said he strongly doubted Mr Brown would call an election, having waited ten years for power.

Despite this, he said the Liberal Democrats were more ready for an election than they ever had been at this time in a parliamentary term.

Sir Menzies challenged Mr Brown: “We’re ready, bring it on”.

This followed an all together less enthusiastic response from the Lib Dem leader earlier when he accidentally told Ms Toksvig “I must be a failure then” when discussing performance nerves.