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Last Updated: Monday, 18 September 2006, 20:00 GMT 21:00 UK
Ming's Arctic Monkey test
Sketch
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

So, Sir Menzies Campbell thought he had passed the Arctic Monkeys test.

The Arctic Monkeys
Ming knows who these people are
We don't know how he found out who they are, where they come from or the fact, wrong as it turned out, that they have sold more records than the Beatles (they haven't sold anywhere near as many records as the Fab Four, although their download sales are probably healthier).

But while everyone else was obsessing about whether he was the trendiest man in town, he didn't seem to care.

Gordon Brown's professed habit of leaping out of bed to slap on his iPod headphones for a quick burst of the latest "next big thing" cuts no ice with Ming.

In fact he patently doesn't believe a word of it and is not about to get dragged into some contest over who is the oldest swinger in town. It is all far too embarrassing.

Sex my image up

The Liberal Democrat leader has undoubtedly suffered more than his fair share of ageism and ribbing over his lack of knowledge of pop culture, so he clearly feels he needs to show he is not a total square.

But, when asked during a conference Q and A session what he would do to sex up his image, he was only prepared to go so far.

Ming Campbell and women Lib Dems
Ming was pictured with youthful team of women
After revealing his knowledge of the pop group, he quickly moved on - perhaps to avoid being asked for his views on, lets say, Marilyn Manson.

What really matters is substance not style, he said, adding: "I sure as hell ain't gonna change".

That defiance won him one of the biggest cheers of the session

His party may not have the most youthful leader, but what they will get from him, he pledged, was "steady, concentrated, committed effort".

Lycra shorts

It was Ming making the most of it. If you are 65 there is absolutely no point attempting to be 45, let alone 35. Better to make a virtue of the qualities that come with experience.

That's not to say his advisers have not got to him at all. There is a clear attempt to unbutton the Lib Dem leader and he has even been seen on TV without a tie.

He has stressed the youth of his frontbench and been pictured surrounded by his young team of women.

And the nature of the question and answer session - like a fireside chat with some close friends - was designed to show him in a more relaxed mode, talking about his background, political beliefs and even dress sense.

And it is likely we will be treated to more of the laid back Liberal in the coming days.

But the moment he is pictured jogging along the Brighton sea front in lycra shorts, with a fluorescent bum bag and headphones is probably the moment to call a halt.

And I'll be an Arctic Monkey's uncle.

Nick.Assinder-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk




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