Daily Archives: 6 January 2006

Liberal Drinks – a reminder

The London Liberal Drinks is still set for Wednesday 18 January (7pm, Silver Cross, Whitehall). Regardless of what happens over the next 10 days, it should be an opportune time to get together and compare notes.

Main likely topics to discuss: the Meeting the Challenge conference a few days before and, of course, the leadership question.

If you’re planning to come, let us know by registering on the Flock Together website. Looks like we’re already set for a decent turnout.

Time to face the inevitable

I can’t get Monty Python out of my head. The dead parrot sketch or the Black Knight in Holy Grail snorting “’tis but a flesh wound!” – take your pick of analogies. Either way, it is clear that a) Charles Kennedy’s leadership is over and b) he just refuses to roll over and die.

I’ve supported Kennedy throughout all this – the anonymous briefing at the start of December was just pathetic, the pre-Christmas letter signed by 11 front benchers was ill-judged. But it is equally becoming clear that at least part of the reason for the increasingly hard line being adopted by MPs is that Kennedy just refuses to listen, mistaking qualified support for complete vindication. The strength of feeling coming from the front bench – reportedly 19 frontbenchers are putting their money where their mouth is – is a political failure on Kennedy’s part and it looks increasingly as if he has been choosing to talk to them via the media as much as they have been doing the same to him.

Ultimately, this is a contest of wills that Kennedy has already lost. He could well decide to brazen it out, he might even be able to find 7 MPs who are still willing to sign his nomination, he might even win an all member ballot. But if he does, he will only destroy the party. It’s sad, but it is time to go.

So, who do we have instead? In all honesty, I can’t see anyone but Simon Hughes winning. Oaten is simply too isolated, and thanks to Cameron, without a platform. Campbell would make a great caretaker leader, but why would the grassroots vote for that if they’ll get the full monty from Hughes? I’m not convinced this would be the right decision, but I can’t see a more likely outcome. I can only assume that this latest group of MPs have come to the same conclusion and decided it was worth it.

All in all, a depressing day.

UPDATE: Finally found the full list of the MPs who have signed the latest statement. Of the 11 who signed the earlier letter, 3 haven’t signed this latest one. In effect, that means that a total of 28 out of 62 MPs have now called for Kennedy to resign – just two short of 50% if you discount Kennedy himself and the PP chair Paul Holmes. Does Kennedy really believe he can win a vote of confidence now?

No, I don’t have a clue what to do next either

If this was the West Wing, then all Kennedy would have to do next Wednesday is make an impassioned, poignant speech at the Parliamentary Party, underscored by some inspiring strings and suddenly everyone will realise what a noble, wonderful leader he is, never mind the booze and the lies, and everything will be forgotten in time for the end credits. Of course, that would require every day until that point to be raining.

Unfortunately, this is the real world and it don’t work that way. I started off thinking that Kennedy had performed a masterstroke in self-preservation, although was less convinced it was good for the party. Now however I’m not so sure about even that. On the other hand I remain unconvinced by any of the likely pretenders.

I really haven’t made my mind up about this at all. So instead, a few random points:

1. To be nominated as a candidate in this contest, an MP needs 7 of his/her colleagues to nominate – even Charles. I don’t think any parliamentarian should back anyone unless they are absolutely convinced they’re up for the job. No blank cheques this time.

2. Having said that, I don’t think anyone should sign childish letters calling for their leader to resign either unless they have a pretty good idea who they want instead. So who do the Brutus XI support? They seem a pretty diverse bunch and I don’t see them uniting behind anyone. It was the political equivalent of a toddler’s dirty protest. Like so much thinking going on at the top of the party, it was tactically very effective but strategically clueless and has left us up the creek without a paddle.

3. The fuck ups and failures of the past few years are as much the responsibility of Charles’ inner circle as himself. An alcoholic can be an effective leader – cf Winston Churchill – what they need is a core team around them who are not in denial themselves. Time and again they have left him exposed and vulnerable. Karma – and realpolitik – demands that some blood needs to be spilt now. If that isn’t to be the leader himself, then we need to see a major scalp – otherwise it just looks complacent.

4. It is surely only right and proper to ask if Daisy McAndrew ever lied for Charles Kennedy when she was his press officer?

5. One thing is for sure, David Cameron has effectively killed off all hope of an Orange Book Revolution within the party. Even the most frothing idealogue would baulk at the idea of fighting a General Election campaign to the right of the Tories. Cameron’s commitment on Wednesday to block any move towards health insurance essentially scuppers the whole David Laws plan. The party simply cannot afford to go to the right at a time when the Tories are doing the exact opposite.