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?