January 05, 2006

Charles Kennedy calls time

Charles Kennedy has followed the advice of many of his MPs (huh, was forced anyway!) and is holding a leadership election. He's angry because it'll detract from talking about important issues. But then when was the last time you heard Kennedy talk about important issues?

Take today. The main story put out about the Lib Dems was about a 12-year-old who has been named Chairman of his local constituency party. Yup. Luckily he said he was a Kennedy fan and thought he should stay. Handy, that.

Charles Kennedy has chosen an all-out leadership election because he knows no-one will beat him, that's if anyone else even runs. What Lib Dem MPs wanted was a vote of confidence, which he would have been far more likely to lose.

But it is not the 'distracting' leadership election which should be making Lib Dem supporters angry. It is Charles Kennedy's refusal to submit himself to a rigourous test of his leadership. A leadership election might sound great, but realistically, it's going to massively favour the incumbent. John Major used the same tactic in 1995 when John Redwood (yeah, who?) ran against him.

If Charles Kennedy wanted to do the best thing for his party, he should hold a snap vote of confidence, saying to his MPs "I want to carry on. Do you want me?"

Because it is better to be sure you have a solid leader than one who is holding on by a thread. Kennedy is doing his party no favours by holding his own position in a higher regard than his party's chances at the next election.

This leadership election will not kill off Kennedy's critics, and while he almost certainly will win, I'll be amazed if he's still around at the time of the next election.

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