Friday, January 06, 2006

KENNEDY COMES CLEAN

After months of denial and several weeks of pressure from his own party, Charles Kennedy finally came clean and admitted he had a drink problem.
Over the past 18 months I've been coming to terms with and seeking to cope with a drink problem, and I've come to learn through that process that a drink problem is a serious problem indeed.

"It's serious for yourself and it's serious for those around you. I've sought professional help and I believe today that this issue is essentially resolved.
There are some who claim this as evidence the man is unfit to lead the Liberal Democrats. Given the President of the most powerful country in the world once reached a point where "Alcohol was beginning to compete for [his] affections" and that Churchill was sozzled for most of WWII, I'm not sure this is an issue. The matter at hand is whether Charles Kennedy is actually any good at his job.

Under his leadership the LibDems have failed to capitalise on an ineffectual Tory opposition and growing public disatisfaction with Tony Blair, remaining primarily a party for protest votes.

With David Cameron attempting to reclaim the centre ground and Gordon Brown currying more favour with traditional Labour voters and the unions, unless Kennedy has a cunning plan up his sleeve he might do well to quit now and leave the ensuing mess behind him.

However, he is adamant that he will retain leadership of the LibDems, putting his party's support for him to the test by standing in the forthcoming contest:
Given my statement today I believe it is only fair now to give our party members their say over the continuing leadership.
It is open to any colleague who believes that they can better represent the longer-term interests of the party to stand against me in such a leadership election.
Should be interesting. Orange Bookers versus Little Red Bookers.

I don't fancy Kennedy's chances though. On Monday, Lord McNully, leader of the Liberal Democrat peers in the House of Lords, said of him:
“In the months since the general election he has not addressed, as directly as he should have done, the concerns that were being expressed by his colleagues.
“Is it recoverable? Is it terminal for Charles? My view is that it is not. Does his leadership need a radical, rapid and sustained change in style and content? The answer is yes.”
This was followed by similar remarks from Simon Hughes who despite initially stating:
”If people want to discuss the leadership they must leave it until then. We cannot spend the months, on the run-up to polling day, endlessly talking about the leadership. It would not do us any good at all.”
went on to do exactly what he was advising others not to and discussed Kennedy's leadership:
“I am sure he [Charles] understands what people are saying and he knows he has to deliver in the next few months. I have no reason to believe that he is not heeding the criticisms that have been made. It is important that he is allowed to get on with it.”

...

“Charles has to demonstrate that he still wants it in his heart and in his mind. He has to win the confidence of his colleagues that he genuinely still wants it.”
This was followed by perhaps the hardest blow of all when 11 of the 23 members of his shadow cabinet decided to sign a letter of no-confidence in his leadership which somehow found its way to the Times. According to the article:
The Times has learnt that the signatories of the letter, which they never intended to be made public, included some of the party’s rising stars.

They included Sarah Teather, 31, who shadows John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, who in 2003 won a shock by-election in the former Labour stronghold of Brent East after the resignation of London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

Another signatory is David Laws, 40, the Work and Pensions spokesman, who is a co-author of the Orange Book which enraged Mr Kennedy after it challenged the party’s commitment to tax-raising policies to increase public spending.

Ed Davey, 40, the Education Spokesman, who has also signed, said this week: "The need for some sort of change was established before Christmas and we await developments."

Other names on the letter include Norman Baker, the Environment Spokesman, Sandra Gidley, the Shadow Minister for Women and Pensioners, who is defending a wafer thin 125 majority in Romsey, Norman Lamb, the Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary, and Michael Moore, the Party’s Shadow Defence Secretary.
To top it all, Kennedy's international development spokesman Andrew George and trade spokesman Norman Lamb have both stated they will quit their posts if he does not resign.

Sadly for Kennedy, the only thing looking rosy at the moment are his cheeks.


UPDATE

That didn't take long. Kennedy's resigned.

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