Saturday, January 07, 2006

Is it all over?

Heads up:
Party leader Charles Kennedy is due to make a statement at Liberal Democrat headquarters, in London, at 1500 GMT, days after admitting a drink problem.
After yesterday's statements by most of his front bench, this will almost certainly be fairly dramatic. It looks like chatshow Charlie may shortly have a lot more time on his hands to pursue that other career option. He shouldn't despair; he'd almost certainly make a very successful go of that. (And at the risk of sounding flippant for the sake of a cheap joke, alcoholism is clearly not a hindrance to a successful career in the media.)

Updates to follow.

Update 1
Charles Kennedy resigns as party leader. His resignation speech was extremely impressive and will remind all concerned of the qualities which got him elected as leader in the first place. Mark Oaten, interviewed immediately after the statement, looked genuinely humbled and perhaps even remorseful. He didn't say he wouldn't stand as a candidate but he came very near to it.

What is probably most impressive is that Kennedy's speech does give great hope for the future of the Liberal Democrats.* I the short term, this whole affair has undoubtedly done damage to the Lib Dems and some of the Lib Dem MPs have behaved extremely poorly in recent weeks, backbriefing and so on. In the longer term, it could have a motivating effect and really push the party forward.

Update 2
Sir Menzies Campbell has said he will stand in the leadership election. To do that today might might be seen as being a bit over-eager. He's already received public support from a fair few MPs today though. No-one else has put their name forward so far and a fair few have ruled themselves out.

There's talk as to whether it might be best to unite behind one candidate and have no-one else stand. Kennedy didn't think that was a good way to proceed, let's have a "one member, one vote" contest in which I won't stand is what he said. I have to say that one reflection, I agree. A proper leadership contest, where policies are discussed and debated, candidates put forward their views in a respectful manner, and a poll of party members decides the issue seems the best way forward Yes, like the Tories did, but hopefully not quite so long winded. That's how politics is supposed to work after all. The media obsession with splits and discord has been allowed to stiffle that process and led to authoritarian rather than democratic political leadership (New Labour types, I'm looking at you here).

Btw, Lembit Opik is either the nicest and most honest man in politics or a fantasic impersonator of one. His behaviour throughout all of this has been impecable. And this today (paraphrasing):
Reporter - "Will you stand, Mr Opik?"
Lembit - "No, not this time. I intend to stand for Simon Hughes job of Party President when his term of office runs out in two years time and I intend to stand in the next leadership election but not this one. I don't understand why so many people have trouble talking about their intentions in this way but I don't."
Brilliant. More of that sort of politics please.

I'm a Lib Dem voter of course. I'd be interested to know if others who vote for other parties also had that impresion.

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