It’s a bit of a day today! So many people are emailing and contacting me about where I stand that I think it only right to put my thinking on the record on my blog – unadulterated.
I am pretty angry about the way things have happened over Charles Kennedy’s position as Leader – and have been since the beginnings of the public rumblings following the pre-Christmas briefings to the media. It’s not the way to do these things. Perhaps I am simply naive and these things cannot be done ‘nicely’ but the future of the Liberal Democrats matters passionately to me and I want to see us go onwards and upwards – and to replicate what we achieved in the election in Hornsey & Wood Green in many other seats across the country at the next election.
I have been a Charles supporter. I went out and campaigned for him to be leader. I think he was exceptional in his call on Iraq – the right position and a brave position – for which he took much flak in Parliament and outside. He was right about not taking part in the Butler Inquiry. And I have always enjoyed his style of leadership (not egomaniac and not spin) – something reflected in the polls which have consistently showed him very popular.
But following his statement yesterday – I think it has all gone too far to save him. And I myself, no longer feel inspired to support him. I feel let down because he has had previous opportunities to set the record straight privately and publicly. And the discontent in the parliamentary party is not just about the possible (and now confirmed) alcohol problem but also about the vision and drive which the party needs to make even more progress at the next election.
Initially, I thought the statement yesterday might deliver a strategic miracle – for a few moments – but then recognised that it will not stem the tide. And so despite the difficulties and the challenges ahead, I hope he reconsiders his position over the coming weekend.
He may even win a leadership contest if it goes to the membership. It’s important that we are a democratic party and that we have our leader chosen by our members – but it is also right that Lib Dem members know the views of those MPs who work with the party leader most closely week by week. That’s why I and many of my colleagues are saying that we want Charles to reconsider his position, and that we won’t hold office under him. In my case, that would mean resigning as a Home Affairs frontbench spokesperson.
From what I have seen of emails coming into me today – there are some who are angry, especially as the man made such a brilliant decision over Iraq – but the majority seem to be saying – reluctantly – that there is no way he can go on.
So – we will have to see how it pans out over the next few days. Parliament returns next week – and the first Parliamentary Party Meeting is on late Wednesday afternoon. It is just such a sad way to go.