Charles Kennedy – who sealed his fate?
George Pascoe-Watson, the new Political Editor of the Sun made the point on Sky News today (in a cosy interview/chat with his wife, Kay Burley, incidentally) that it wasn't the media's fault that Charles Kennedy had to leave his job. In his words…
we just report the facts!
But is this strictly true?
For a start, it's the pressure of 24-hour news channels (albeit only two of them now) that means the story has turned around so quickly. In the space of 24 hours, Kennedy has gone from being in the same weak position where he's been for months to one where his position is utterly untenable.
For instance this morning on the Today programme, the leader of the Lib Dems in the European Parliament said Kennedy was a "dead man walking". This led to more calls for him to resign, followed by the confirmation from Vince Cable that he believed he should leave immediately and finally the 'threatened' resignation of one of Kennedy's top team. All of this in under 5 hours!
Also, is the decision of Liberal Democrat MPs to challenge Mr Kennedy not directly as a result of the poor coverage that he has received in the press? Every newspaper today says he should go quietly, and his policies have not broken through the glass ceiling for months now.
What's more, Lib Dems know that the coverage that Kennedy gets is only going to get worse, especially given the very open in-fighting which is now taking place. See Iain Duncan Smith's slow exit of the Conservative party as an example of a political leader being on a one-way street to the backbenches.
So while it is Lib Dem MPs who have forced Kennedy into a position from where he must surely resign (by 6pm tonight, I predict), it is the media which has churned and spat out this story in 24 hours, rather than several weeks.
Incidentally, if Winston Churchill lived in a world of 24-hour instant news, would his alcoholism have been tolerated? I doubt it very much.
And also incidentally, a very good article about 24 hour news and its effects on the 'news cycle' by Mark Lawson in today's Guardian.