The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Friday, January 06, 2006
The frustration goes on
by Peter

This is a personal view - blame me if you don´t like it. I haven't discussed this with others.

Kennedy's announcement yesterday was the worst possible news for the Party. He has lost the confidence of his colleagues, and, in my view, a very considerable part of the membership. Drinking is one aspect of this - but none of us can know just how good a leader Kennedy might be if he did´'t drink. So it would be foolish to say that it is the only problem.

Many people have responded to the crisis by attacking the messengers. they may be right to do so - but they can't possibly be sure they are right. An alcohol problem is difficult for the person who suffers it. It is also bloody difficult for the people who surround him. Rob Knight, commenting on Liberal England has got this right, I think:

Let's, for the sake of argument, consider a hypothesis.

Kennedy has a drink problem. This problem is preventing him from fulfilling his duties, but nobody wants to say so publicly, partly because he's a genuinely nice chap and nobody wants to air his dirty washing in public.

This might be the reason behind the recent briefings; perhaps those briefing actually think Kennedy would be better off out of the job (think House of Cards, it's a "mercy killing", he was "in the trap and screaming from the moment he took office" etc.). Imagine being one of those who is confronted with the secret knowledge that Kennedy isn't up to the job, yet mindful of his public popularity and not wishing to do anything to harm it. What would you do?

The great pity is that, had Kennedy announced that he was going to stand down at any time, he would have done so with great respect for his leadership. He would be able to point to the best result etc etc...

Well there is still time. I hope that he uses the next couple of days to decide that the best thing for his health, family and future is to stand down now and allow the party to get on with choosing a successor.

I don't think it can be said often enough that the rest of the parliamentary party appear to have acted (perhaps too slowly) in the best interests of the party. Chris Davies took the right line on the Today programme this morning - again with the best interests of the party in mind.

When the election comes along (if there is an election - I don´t oppose the coronation scenario). I hope that we'll argue the issues rather than exchanging insults. The winner - whoever it is - will almost certainly be better than his/her opponents fear, and worse than his/her supporters hope.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 8:24 am  
  • At 06 January, 2006 09:20, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 06 January, 2006 10:16, Anonymous Paul said…

    "What would you do?" asks Rob.

    Well, one thing I wouldn't do is start briefing the press behind the leader's back. I fail to see how that was "in the best interests of the party".

  • At 06 January, 2006 10:31, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    This sounds great. But increasingly one hears that people started by saying things to his face.

    Simon G

  • At 06 January, 2006 10:36, Anonymous Valerie said…

    Paul - I think it was the only thing they could do. I completely understand their frustration.

  • At 06 January, 2006 11:10, Anonymous Rob Knight said…

    My suspicion is that those doing the briefing thought that they were doing the right thing. Even now, it can be justified (on some level) on the basis that it has forced Kennedy to go public on an issue that all agree he should have gone public on some time ago.

    Given that past attempts at resolving this have failed, perhaps they simply ran out of options?

    I don't claim to know any of the answers, but I think it's worth keeping in mind that this is a very human story, full of human failings, misunderstandings and mistakes. As we extend sympathy to Kennedy, we must also be mindful of the difficulties his condition has caused for his colleagues.

  • At 06 January, 2006 11:18, Blogger Peter Pigeon said…

    I'm not sure who removed the first post. It said that I was "part of the problem rather than part of the solution".

    I tend to disagree, but support free speech - even anonymous free speech.

  • At 06 January, 2006 12:18, Blogger James said…

    What would I have done? I'd have recognised that a large part of the problem was/is the absurdly protective way Charles' inner circle have shielded him from criticism and even just standard internal communication, and I'd have taken the fight there. I would have insisted, back in March 2004, that the status quo was no longer tolerable and he needed to move outside of his comfort zone.

    It has long been recognised by a lot of us that the problem with Kennedy's leadership has been that he has been in a bunker for the past three years. This isn't just about alcohol, it includes incidences such as the appalling decision to have him front the 2005 manifesto launch when he hadn't had any sleep the night before, and his appalling prevarication over the Iraq demo in 2003. But the senior parliamentary party, who were the only people in a real position to do anything about it, have simply sat on their hands.

  • At 06 January, 2006 15:35, Blogger Cicero said…

    There are two things here, I think. One is Charles- and I reluctantly share the opinion that he must now leave. The second is Cowley Street. Lords Razzell and Rennard have made some major errors- not least over the donations- and to a degree I think they have also advised CK very badly. A major change should take place at HQ too- it is long overdue.

  • At 06 January, 2006 17:28, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If we'd been led by bloody Ming Campbell we'd have backed Blair over the war for chrissakes!

    The donations thing was a screw up largely by some of those in Cowley St who have been most disloyal & doing many of the briefings.

    Touching Rennard would be lunacy, but hey, stirring up all this shit over CK in the first place was lunacy. We've already fucked ourselves, so no doubt we'll carry on doing it. Depressing and unnecessary, and all down to a collective loss of nerve.

    Virtually any alternative scenario will be far far worse.

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