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.