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.


  1. James,

    I don’t think it matters whether the signatories are diverse or not. This is a personal issue, not a policy one. There are other figures around whom we can successfully unite, and we can leave the policy debates for later (if we even need to have them).

  2. I don´t disagree – but seem to remember that just the other week we were advised (by you) not to rush to the centre. Alex Sweet has posted an appropriate message on the Apollo Project blog.

  3. Valerie – this isn’t a personal issue at all. You don’t get rid of a leader unless you are pretty clear about a replacement (or replacements). Who on earth are these other figures of which you speak? They all seem pretty appalling prospects to me.

    Peter – I fail to see how you can equate a call for the party not to rush to the centre with a call for the party to rush to the right.

  4. I don’t think we should be rushing anywhere. We should have a proper debate in the party about how our liberal principles apply to today’s Britain and get on with developing policies that flow from that.

    We have always been at our best, and done best, when we have taken this approach.

    And preferably we should have a leader who is broadly happy with that set of policies.

    What we should not do is try and draw up policies based on ‘positioning’ ourselves to the left, right, centre, front or back of anyone else.

  5. Move to the right: I am fed up with this thinking that liberal economics = right wing, social liberalism = left wing.
    This is clearly rubbish, its only since socialism became the left and Thatcher brought neo-liberalism to the right that anything like this could be said. The Liberals campaigned for free trade in the 19th Century because the situation was unjust, not because of right or left wing ideology.
    We should move to the Liberal. That means increasing individual freedom and reducing the state and creating more diversity of power, but whilst doing that not just letting people fall through the cracks but helping to provide opportunity and support to get back on their feet.

    We cannot have Liberalism and Socialism together. We cannot have Liberalism and a state controlled economy. We also cannot have Liberalism with parts of society who cannot tale part in the community and society as a whole.

    I do not believe that any member of the Liberal Democrats is not a social liberal, it is part of the Liberal tradition, but we cannot throw the rest of the tradition out in pursuit of those aims because then we end up with a watered down Socialism and the authoritarianism diplayed by Blair, Brown, Blunkett et al.

    Lloyd George was right to tell us that the freedoms we seek to give people are worthless if they cannot live, but the reverse is also true, the ability to live, have a good education and good healthcare are pointless if we do not have individual freedom.

    Those in the party who continue to snipe at each other over ‘left’ or ‘right’ wing need to grow up and start looking at Liberalism as a whole, the ‘three branches’ of Liberalism are interdependent and all necessary for the freedom of the Individual which is the aim of Liberalism.

    So, instead of moving ‘left’ or ‘right’ we should have policies which are designed to free the individual from the state, reduce dependency on the state whilst providing a safety net and help for those who need it.

    The problem today is that the last century consisted of a consensus of increasing state power and removing rights and responsibilities from the individual followed by the Thatcherite revolution which did not hand back power to everyone, but only the rich.
    No wonder people don’t vote, they have no insentive because power, rights and responsibility have been removed from them.

    As for what to do now… I despair somewhat. Kennedy I think could have managed to reconcile the two groups, but now, baring a vote of confidence with a massive majority he unfortunately should go. Who should replace him, I really don’t know, I fear any leadership contest being cast in the light of ‘left’ and ‘right’.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.