... and proved to be another example of what I blogged about here recently, the relative power of press and politicians. I can't quite decide whether it amounts to dishonest journalism or not. The story of Ming's age, pardon the pun, was an old, old story. We knew some LibDems didn't like him, and we knew that some LibDems were concerned about his age and image. We've known that for two years. We know Gordon Brown is a control freak - the press don't go on about it day after day after day. We know Dave the boy Cameron is completely vacuous - the press don't go on about it day after day after day. But they decided some time ago that the story was Ming's age, and it became the story - day after day after day. And that despite everything we were doing - the real news - things actually happening, policy announcements, policy working, oh sorry not news, now let's talk about Ming's age. The revelation that he was asked about his age at every single one of sixty plus interviews at the party conference this year shows the intensity of the thing. A lesson for whoever succeeds him. And at one level, OK they were right - every party needs a telegenic leader, it is now clearly a sine qua non.
So a decent, honourable man has been knocked out of the limelight. His colleagues may have fashioned the knife (it's difficult to tell from what I know and impossible, I'm afraid, to believe anything the press says, because they are determined to take no responsibility for their actions) but it was the press that wielded it.
I hope Ming comes back. Whoever becomes party leader needs him on the front bench, where he can still wield a scalpel of his own occasionally. One of the government's most embarrassing moments of recent years was the admission Ming forced of their complicity in flights of rendition. Of course, they were able to get over it because not enough people cared. But it's our job to make them care.