Transcript of David Laws podcast

The following is a transcript of David Laws’s podcast where he explains his support for Ming Campbell.

David Walter: I’m with David Laws. David, how long have you known Ming?

David Laws:
I suppose I must have known Ming now for about ten years and I first met him when I was a researcher for Malcolm Bruce when I left my previous job and came to work for the Liberal Democrats. And Ming then was involved in foreign affairs and defence and had a very high profile on those issues as he does now.

DW: You’d obviously seen him on television and so on before then. Was there any difference between the man that you knew from the screen and the man that you knew in person?

DL: I think that it’s always difficult when you meet for the first time people you’ve only seen on television who seem to, to you to be some of the great political figures. I mean I was struck immediately with Ming by his incredible professionalism. I mean he is a serious and substantive politician, he’s not just one of these people who puts out press releases and hopes for a good line on, on the news. He really takes his politics very seriously.

I think the other thing that was striking when you met Ming and saw him in action was to understand the deep passion that he has for a fairer society. He’s somebody who always looks impressive and statesmanlike on television and somebody who, who, who people look up to and respect but I think that what comes across when you know him privately is how passionate he is about a fairer Britain and how his own experiences of growing up and his experiences in Scotland have, have led him towards those conclusions.

DW: Some people think of him as a slightly patrician figure but he’s not really like that is he?

DL: Well I remember Ming saying to me dress to the right and think to the Left. And sometimes when people see Ming on, on, television looking rather splendid, always very well dressed, they think of somebody instinctively who, who looks as if he might be a Conservative politician but there’s nothing small c or large c conservative about Ming Campbell and he has a passion for a fairer Britain which is much stronger and belies his image as, as an elder statesman with smart suits.

DW: None the less he is somebody who will be able to build bridges with the business community and the financial community isn’t he?

DL: I think he is. I mean one of the problems that the Liberal Democrats have had because we’ve been out of power at Westminster for so long is credibility, that people don’t always think of us as credible on economic policy, they don’t always think of us as a party that can go in to power.

I think one of the advantages that Ming has is you can actually imagine him as a Prime Minister in waiting, you can imagine him running one of the great departments of state or running the country and I think that that credibility issue is absolutely critical to our party.

And the other thing that’s absolutely key after the difficult period that the party’s had is that we have a leader that can unite the party and can unite all parts of the party, and Ming’s support in the Parliament, in the House of Lords, in the House of Commons, in Scotland, in Wales, in the European Parliament, is very, very strong. And those people who have worked with Ming for longest are those people who support him most strongly because they’ve seen at first hand the extraordinary qualities that he does have.

DW: How about his relationship with, with people at the grass roots, with, with party members and much more importantly with voters out there?
DL: I think Ming is fantastically popular on the ground both with our members and with the electorate. I mean he’s one of the people that constituency parties throughout the country most want to have for a visit. He’s one of the people I think that the other two parties fear most when he visits parliamentary constituencies. That’s a good test for any political leader. If you are in another political party and that person visits your constituency are you going to be worried or not?

I remember when Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard visited Yeovil constituency and to be honest I wasn’t too worried that they were coming. But if I was a Conservative or a Labour MP and I knew Ming Campbell was coming to my constituency I would be worried because I know that he’s a draw for many voters from all political parties.

And I remember Ming coming down to Yeovil constituency before the conflict in Iraq and talking in a packed village hall in South Peverton and we had one of the biggest attendances for any political meeting that we’ve had in Yeovil constituency for twenty years because people respect and admire Ming and respect and admire the view and the position that he’s expressed so clearly on behalf of the party on the issue of Iraq.

DW: You don’t think it’s a problem for him that he’s a Scot particularly with voters in the West Country?

DL: No I think it’s completely irrelevant and I think that in the West Country actually my experience of dealing with people is that Ming is incredibly popular down in the West Country, very much respected and admired and seen to be a national political figure, not somebody who’s identified with one particular part of the United Kingdom. And I think people in the West Country judge people on their qualities; they’re not concerned about issues of age, are they young, are they old, which part of the United Kingdom do they come from. What people want to know is do they have the qualities to lead a political party and to lead the country.

Listen to the original David Laws podcast »