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Slings and arrows Jan 06

There is no way Charles Kennedy can continue as Liberal Democrat party leader.

I was one of the many grassroots activists backing Charles over the last few weeks despite the anonymous briefings against him. His announcement last night was a shock, despite the rumours about his drinking in the past. I could probably accept having an ex-alcoholic as leader (assuming he stayed that way), although his repeated earlier denials of a drinking problem do not sit well with a slogan of “Freedom, Fairness, Trust“.

A parliamentary leader without MPs behind him, though, is not a leader at all. Charles has lost the support of so many MPs, including previously supportive members of the 2005 intake, that his position is untenable. If he can’t keep the best Commons performers on the front bench then he can’t possibly run an “effective opposition”. Even though the membership elects the leader, if he doesn’t have the support of his MPs, he can’t continue. Many of the MPs who signed the letter asking him to consider his position are people I like and respect. Charles as leader may have been worth one or two of his colleagues, but not 25 MPs.

Over the last few weeks, Charles has been able to say that he counted on grassroots support, but that is evaporating too. Most of my friends in the party backed him in December. I’ve spoken to many today and every one of them agrees that he cannot continue as leader.

Charles was one of the reason I joined the LibDems and has done great things for us so I’ll be sad to see him go, but go he must. There will be a leadership election, but Charles should not be a candidate.

Category: Best Of, Politics
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10 Responses

  1. 1

    its difficult to argue with this analysis how ever “should he go?” and “should he have been put in a position where he has to go?” are different questions. The leader is elected by the party. The constitution sets out a perfectly clear mechanism for removing a leader. However the malcontents have not used this. Instead they have used the 24 hour news cycle as a weapon and anonymous briefing to create a media inferno which has now consumed charles. Its a sad, perhaps terminal day for the party as a democratic organisation when, not being able to pass a no confidence motion, this media weapon is used.

    Also please no body think this is just about CK’s drinking which has been common knowledge since before he was elected. Some people in the party are no longer willing to put up with “fudge” over direction (which has served us well). If this coup d’tat now leads us the asecendcy of a psuedo blairite make over, just as the nation tires of the real thing then a lot of people will only have there selves to blame.

    finally I can’t help but wonder if this fiasco is really a vote winner. after all these people relected the man only 7 months ago. It is a sad and I shed a small tear for a leader who did well and deserved better than this. as enoch powell observed “all political careers end in tears”.

  2. Will, you have summed things up very well.

  3. When John Major called a leadership election to silence the bastards in his own party in 1995, he never recovered even after winning the support of his MPs. When a leader needs to seek clarification of support from his troupes, the “bastards” scent blood and will not let it go.

    I fear Charles is now finished if no MP challenges him, as the backbiting will continue. And if one does and Charles wins… will his leadership limp on until 2009?

    It’s enough to drive you to drink (ooo should I have said that?)

  4. Add to that list myself after an evening of reflection at a Lib Dem function.

  5. David, you said:

    “Also please no body think this is just about CK’s drinking which has been common knowledge since before he was elected.”

    At my office, we use “common knowledge” to mean “things that everyone ought to know but doesn’t.”

  6. 6

    What this past few days has shown me is that the ‘Lib Dems’ are no better than any other political party. They anonymously briefed against him’ but did not openly use their own constitution to challenge him.

    Why am I not surprised.

  1. [...] I’ve not said much – or anything – about Charles Kennedy’s leadership for a number of reasons, but I think Will Howells sums things up excellently: [Charles] has done great things for us so I’ll be sad to see him go, but go he must. There will be a leadership election, but Charles should not be a candidate. [...]

  2. [...] Richard Allan, Will Howells, the people at Apollo, Jonathan Calder are amongst the many. [...]

  3. [...] But that all seemed to change with Charles Kennedy’s announcement of the leadership election, and the cofession that he had suffered from a drink problem (and the following Newsnight poll that suggested that half of his MPs had lost confidence in him). Overnight, Lib Dem bloggers seemed to change their mind completely. [...]

  4. [...] I recently wrote about the Charles Kennedy situation, so the news that Charles Kennedy quit doesn’t come as a surprise. As Will Howells eloquently points out, he simply can’t lead when those he seeks to lead on daily basis (his MP’s) no longer support him in large numbers. [...]

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