Campbell's performance at Prime Ministers' Questions this week was poor, as shown in Guido Fawkes' Action Replay : Ming the Meandering Mumbler which shows the reaction of senior Liberal Democrats such as Vincent Cable as Campbell struggles to make a point and needs to check his notes to identify the department he has a problem with.
Amongst the bloggers comenting, Skipper wonders "Oh Dear! Was Ming a Mistake?" whilst The Exile ponders "Is Ming a mong?". A Place to Stand reports how "Ming Campbell is proving a disaster for the LibDems" and Kevin Davis relays "Lib Dems are now privately convinced they will have new leader within a year". A Tangled Web wants to know "just what are the Liberal Democrats FOR, exactly?" whilst noting "KNIVES ARE OUT FOR MING".
The reaction from Lib Dem bloggers is mixed. Peter Black AM expresses his dismay at the turn of events even though "I was unhappy with the result of the leadership election and I have not been too impressed with what I have seen so far". Richard Huzzey offers not a staunch defence of Campbell's leadership so far but pleads "Give Ming A Chance", a call echoed by A Liberal Goes A Long Way who suggests:
And while I'm on one, can someone please gaffer tape Simon Hughes' mouth shut until he's learned how not to fan the flames of a non-story? He must have known that saying "we need to judge [Ming] when it comes to conference after six months rather than after a few weeks," would provoke the inevitable headline in today's Indy, Hughes tells Campbell: 'You must do better by Lib-Dem conference'.So who could replace Campbell?
The events of the last leadership contest have frankly ruled out both Mark Oaten and Simon Hughes' chances for a long time. The revelations about both men have been hard for many Lib Dems to respond to, whilst the local elections were especially disappointing for the Lib Dems in both Winchester and Southwark, suggesting that the voters have not responded well to either man.
The one senior Liberal Democrat to have come out of the last six months with their reputation considerably enhanced is Chris Huhne, unknown before January. Coming from nowhere to take second place in the contest, and at times leading in both opinion polls and bookies' odds, Huhne demonstrated an ability to tap into the desire of many Lib Dems for radicalism and tried to claim the mantle on environmentalism. But can he do so well in a second contest? And if the leader is changed with only one candidate, what will be the reaction of party members, already facing the prospect of having to repay the party's massive debts?
Or what about the younger generation of the party? One candidate who has in the past announced that he would stand for the leadership the next time it becomes vacant is Lembit Öpik. But was he really considering one so soon? And given his ability to bring disaster to every campaign he backs, can he really buck the trend for himself?
What about a female leader? However there's only one female Lib Dem with a regular media presence and that's Sarah Teather. Barely half the age of Campbell (and younger than David Cameron) she would truly be a bold move. However there's a real possibility that she may not even be an MP after the next election - boundary changes are abolishing her Brent East seat and the replacement Brent Central seat looks likely to be a notional Labour seat.
There's one intriguing possibility. As discussed on this blog before, one can legitimately ask if the Lib Dems did the right thing when they brutally deposed Charles Kennedy. Could the fall of Ming lead to an opening for Kennedy to return?
Or could the Lib Dems modify their rules to allow a leader outside the Commons, at least in the short term? Someone who is unamiguously a caretaker would allow them time to sort out the party's direction and find a permanent long term successor. So could Paddy Ashdown be the veteran they need back?
Whoever becomes the next Lib Dem leader will need to get a lot of things in order. The recent fiasco with the party facing having to raise £2.4 million from its members shows the mess the party structure is in, and the leader will need to ensure that no more backroom cock-ups occur.
They will also need to inspire the even younger generation of Liberal Democrats and convince them to stay in the party when the Conservatives are performing so well and reclaiming the legacy of the classic Liberal Party (inherited in part via the Liberal Unionists and later National Liberals along with many individual recruits over the years). If the Lib Dems thought they were facing their greatest crisis in January, they may have been premature.
So who do readers of this blog reckon will be Lib Dem leader come Christmas?