By Ray Fleming l AS Harold Wilson once said, “A week is a long time in politics.” But now, following Charles Kennedy's resignation yesterday, we know that two days is even longer and 24 hours is an eternity. Yesterday morning Mr Kennedy had a defiant interview in The Independent headlined “I fight on” but by early afternoon he had decided to go rather than face what would probably have been a demeaning and divisive election to keep his leadership of the Liberal Democrats. In this space on Thursday I asked, “Should Kennedy Go?”, and concluded only that, as Macbeth had it, “If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well It was done quickly.” A long drawn out agony that pitched the LibDem MPs in Westminster against the party members in the constituencies could only have damaged the whole arty at a time that there is a revived Conservative party at large and important local elections to fight in May. Over the past two years it has been difficult to write about Charles Kennedy's leadership without knowing at first hand how much to believe of the rumours circulating about his drinking. Alcohol and politics are no strangers to each other and in any walk of life anyone who can describe himself as a “former alcoholic” deserves respect. Mr Kennedy's mistake, it is now clear, was to ignore the early warnings he was given by senior members of his party and then consistently to deny or sidestep media questions put to him on the subject. His final frankness last Thursday was forced on him by the knowledge that he was going to be exposed on television.
Mr Kennedy has served his party and the nation well.
The Liberal Democrats are stronger in Parliament than they have been for decades and he alone had the foresight and guts to oppose the Iraq war and specious underpinnings. Whether the party can prosper with a new leader is impossible to judge until we know who will take his place. Curiously, the same arguments that put Michael Howard into the interim leadership of the Conservatives are being used to suggest that the elder statesman Menzies Campbell should take over until the younger generation of MPs have had the chance to show their qualities.


To be able to write a comment, you have to be registered and be logged in.

* Mandatory fields

Currently there are no comments.