Answering the question

Friday, January 20th, 2006

Last night Ming Campbell was on Question Time, a programme that generally drives me barmy because I find myself wanting to hurl abuse (and chairs) at the screen.

The panel bore distinct evidence of a sudden change in priorities by the programme-makers.

Salma Yaqoob of Respect was joined by a silver-haired ex-diplomat from the dubiously titled “Migration Watch UK” and by the Labour MP Chris Bryant, one of the most outspoken critics of Respect leader George Galloway's appearance on Big Brother. The rent-a-frontbencher Tory Alan Duncan was also there in case there was a need for waspish humour in the midsts of the expected punch-up.

To this mix – interesting, but distinctly Second XI – was added the distinguished, patrician figure of Ming, who sat authoritively next to whichever Dimbleby it is who hosts the programme. If he couldn't hit a few sixes off this bowling, he wouldn't be fit to be leader.

It's my belief that, if he didn't perhaps score a century, he certainly played a captain's innings and on that basis I'm going to vote for him in the leadership election.

Most encouraging was the reaction of the audience when the question of whether he was too old arose. Not just support for him, but the sort of emphatic approval that suggests a backlash is brewing in Middle England against the 'slick young charmer' school of politician represented by both Blair and Cameron.

Sensibly, Dimbleby went to him last to answer the age question. That meant we watched him sit blushing as person after person, in the audience and on the panel, praised him. As each new compliment came in he looked more and more like a child at a birthday party who's been unexpectedly offered another bowl of jelly. It was rather sweet, actually.

So, yes. It's Ming for me.

Ming - Orange Contrast T-Shirt

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I'm Andy Darley. Sometimes I want to say things. This is where I do it.