05 January 2006

The LibDems at Westminster

Right, let's work this out. A politician who prides himself on honesty and integrity, has spent the last 18 monts denying a drink problem, when he has, in fact, been battling a drink problem. He's also been seeking major public office while suffering from a difficult medical condition involving consumption to excess of a substance that impairs judgement. I don't know what's crazier: that he's now seeking the re-affirmed support of his party, or that Mark Oaten and Lembit Opik have been on TV offering him their personal backing.

I know we shouldn't expect perfection from our leaders, and alcoholism is a serious condition: I hope Charles Kennedy has the courage and strength to recover. But the fact is he has lied about this on numerous occasions, including as recently as last month, and has only now decided, when the chips are down, to confess. I suspect that there will be some bemusement, and possibly some hurt, in the LibDem membership. I know that that is how I'd feel.

That's my only editorial on the matter. I'll be following the Leadership Campaign (if there is one) carefully.


Digbeth D'Marriotti said...

I think that you could quite easily argue semantics on this one. Define - "problem".

Chuckie Kennedy has been wrestling with his drink demons for 18 months - but were these demons a problem? If if he didn't see them as a problem then why should he say so?

When his colleagues - several of whom stand to benefit from his downfall - decided to brief against him then clearly the answer was yes this is a problem. When the lib-dems won more seats than they have for over 80 years then - and I'm guessing here - I reckon the answer was no it was not a problem.

So has Chuckie been lying about a drink problem, or has he been a "functioning alcoholic", or even less offensive a man who enjoyed a bevvie?

I dunno, but two things are clear:

1) the behaviour of lib-dem MPs leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. Talk about a knee-jerk reaction to Cameron's golden 100 days!

2) the lib-dems will win substantially less seats at the next election. I'd put money on less than 40, and reckon it could be even much, much lower.

Talking of which the best place to watch the contest will be:


I have no affiliation, but have found this to be a great site.

Will said...

This is a thorny one. My personal viewpoint is that if you need to seek medical help for it, it's a problem. As to the lying, it's worth remembering that he has been asked about whether he's been seeking help, and he has denied this.

Further, LibDem sources (and the press) have linked various episodes to his drinking: his Budget no-show, his ill-health at the 2004 Spring Conference, his stuttering manifesto launch, and that week last November which was apparently a disaster for CK.

Now, we have no conclusive proof that any of these were linked to instances of alcohol abuse, but the allegations do cast doubt on how well he was functioning.

Obviously, the key task for the Federal LibDems now is to decide whether they want to follow the Orange Book approach and join the scramble for the centre ground, or swing to the beard-and-sandals brigade and go for disaffected Labour voters in inner-cities. Luckily they have a good 18 to 24 months in which to make the necessary changes before momentum starts to build for the next Westminster Election.

Whatever they do, I entirely agree that in the LibDem-Tory marginals, they're going to get horse-whipped. That means that the seats that they took from Labour will define their performance. If they do well enough in places like Manchester and Birmingham, they might just hold out.