Ming the merciless: Menzies Campbell hits out at senior Lib Dems
FORMER Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell has hit out at senior party members, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Business Secretary Vince Cable, in a scathing interview.
The veteran North East Fife MP, who was forced to step down from the leadership by colleagues, and was replaced by Mr Clegg, expressed anger at Mr Cable’s recent flirtation with Labour.
After it emerged the Business Secretary had been exchanging texts with Labour leader Ed Miliband and last week openly warmed to shadow chancellor Ed Balls, Sir Menzies warned that it would encourage disaffection on the Tory backbenches.
Cable shouldn’t be chasing another partner
In the interview with the House magazine, he said: “The truth is that the success of this coalition depends upon everyone who participates in it being a full subscriber, and we were using the expression pick and mix a little while ago. I don’t think it helps a partnership to suggest that you may already be looking for another partner.”
He added: “If you were a Tory backbencher hearing of these things, especially one who’s disaffected, who wishes there was an unrestricted Tory government, what would you make of it? Would you be encouraged to be yet more loyal to the front bench?”
Hard for peer to hide light under bushel
He also attacked Lord Oakeshott, a former Treasury spokesman for the party, for suggesting Mr Clegg may need to step down.
Sir Menzies said: “People like Lord Oakeshott, who has always found it difficult to hide his light under a bushel, they might be out there speculating but the fact of the matter is I see no
appetite in the party for another leadership election and I would most certainly argue against it.”
But Sir Menzies was also critical of Mr Clegg’s decision to remove Lib Dem ministers from the Foreign Office and MoD.
He said: “Foreign affairs and defence have been my particular interest. I understand what the strategy is to concentrate on areas which are more obviously Lib Dem but, for my own part, had I been in a position of making these choices, I would certainly have kept one or other, defence or foreign affairs.”
Booing of Osborne like treatment of Thatcher
Turning his attention to Tory Chancellor George Osborne, he said the booing he received at the Paralympics was similar to the moment Margaret Thatcher received the same treatment in Scotland at the 1986 Commonwealth Games.
He said: “There was a row about funding and it was believed that she had forbidden the Scottish Office to provide £4 million, a small amount of money nowadays. So when she came into Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh, they said, ‘Now we are happy to welcome Margaret Thatcher’ and there were loud and concerted boos.”
He also raised questions about giving David Laws a joint brief of Trident and education on his return to government, after being forced to resign over expenses.
Sir Menzies said: “[He is] going to be a busy chap. [There is] absolutely no question about his talent, his ability, his capability… he’ll have to find the time because this is a complicated issue.”
But Sir Menzies denied rumours that he had been asked to replace Michael Moore as Scottish Secretary. “I neither requested not was offered,” he said.
He also said he had not decided whether he would stand for parliament again. I haven’t made up my mind and that’s genuinely the case. I’m 71.
I still have most of my own teeth
“I still have most of my own teeth. It’s ten years since I had cancer but I’m still here. I’ve got a lot on my plate. I’ve promised my constituency association I’d make up my mind about half way through the parliament.”
And after a summer where the coalition seemed to be under threat of breaking over Lords reform, Sir Menzies refused to follow his leader’s example and rule out entering an unelected Upper Chamber. He said: “It isn’t in my contemplation until I resolve the question of whether I’m going to go on. I’m content with what I’m doing.”
As a former athlete, Sir Menzies revealed he turned down an invitation to run in a veterans’ Games from London mayor Boris Johnson. He said: “I’m not running against Seb [Coe], he’s immensely fit. There are veterans’ competitions, over-40 100m and over-50 100m. I think I’m perfectly content in giving a well-informed analysis.”
The former fastest white man on earth
Sir Menzies also revealed that he once beat OJ Simpson in a race in California. “I did hold the British record for seven years. I ran 10.2 in California, where I did my best running. At one stage, I was the fastest white man on earth. My wife gave me that title in less politically correct times.
“In order to do that, I beat a very promising up-and-coming black athlete who later decided to play American football rather than be a track athlete, and his name was OJ Simpson.”
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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