Thursday, January 05, 2006

A Surprising Announcement

Charles Kennedy has made an unexpected announcement today. He said:
"Whassa matter with you, eh? What you lookin at? A'll take the lot of ye on, ye bastids..."
In reality, of course, alcoholism is anything but funny. It genuinely is a medical condition and jokes about it are pretty poor form. No-one would seriously point and laugh at someone suffering from depression, for example. It must have been extremely difficult to admit to this in public and fair play to him for that. It can be a very serious issue and I sincerely hope that Charles does manage to keep himself on the wagon.

He's called a leadership contest and he's intending to stand. I guess the idea is to do an Ashdown. (Ashdown's popularity increased after he admitted having an affair rather than trying to deny it.) A wee while back I did speculate that he might be thinking of resigning but he's clearly got no intention of doing that. It'll be very interesting to see how this plays out.

As a Liberal Democrat voter, I do despair of Charles at times. He does sometimes appear to be directionless and slightly uninterested. At the same time, if you were to ask me who I'd like to replace him, I'd struggle to suggest anyone who'd do a better job. Leading a party of liberals, where the main point of agreement is on the need to promote individual freedom, can't be an easy task.* What I'd like is for Charles to sort himself out and lead the party in the way that many people, including myself, know that he can.

For example, Charlie has shown himself to be willing to ask the Prime Minister questions which might not be approved of in Washington. David Cameron, on the other hand, is, I think, too conscious of what happened to Michael Howard when he questioned the wisdom of the Iraq war. (The Whitehouse refused to meet with Howard as a result - they love free speech in Washington, you know.) Anyway, Cameron doesn't ask the difficult questions which need to be asked about extraordinary rendition and UK complicity in torture of detainees. Kennedy does and he should be applauded for that. The special relationship is one thing, but allowing the Whitehouse to dictate what can and cannot be discussed by UK politicians is something else entirely. Kennedy understand that. I don't think Cameron does.**

Personally, I hope that today's announcement marks a turning point for Kennedy and he can now go on to fulfil his potential.

* Just in case you've not heard me say this before, I'm not a member of the party. I'm just a Lib Dem voter.

** Is that because Kennedy doesn't think he'll ever actually have to visit Bush as the Prime Minister of this country and Cameron thinks he will? Well, no. Bush will not be in office when the next UK election is held so neither of them will (unless New Labour calls a very early general election which seems extraordinarily unlikely).

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