Friday, January 13, 2006

House Points: Kennedy had to go

Here is my House Points column from today's Liberal Democrat News.

Too loyal, too long

The Tory press says that we Liberal Democrat members are furious at the way Charles Kennedy was forced to stand down. I am not convinced that we are.

It is becoming clear that Charles was determined to stay as leader when he was no longer able to the job to the maximum of his ability. It is also clear that he rejected every chance to leave with dignity. In those circumstances it is hard to see how things could have ended happily.

Far from being disloyal, I think that when Lib Dem MPs look back on this episode they will feel that the root of the trouble was that they were too loyal for too long.

The Tory papers also say that we are about to tear ourselves apart. We are not. A civilised debate about our strategy, with some of the more impressive people in the party getting plenty of media coverage, is just what we need.

* * * * *

“People mutht be amuthed,” said Mr Sleary the circus proprietor in Hard Times. But circuses are out of fashion and some think the new Animal Welfare Bill will do for them altogether.

You can have them without animals, but then they consist entirely of pretentious theatre students with whiteface make up. And no one wants that.

Westminster has much in common with a circus: the colour, the pageantry, the smells. Maybe it has even replaced it.

Ann Widdecombe spoke about cruelty in circuses during the Second Reading debate. In another era she would have been dragged from village to village in a cage to be exhibited while urchins poked stick through the bars.

But Tuesday also saw another curiosity: Emily Thornberry. In an intervention the member for Islington South and Finsbury expressed the view that “to take away a dog’s tail … is like taking away its smile”.

She then took up her rope and skipped from the chamber, her mop of curls bobbing.. Hardened Labour and Tory members wept and fell into one another’s arms. And the speaker gruffly declared the bill passed to applause from the galleries.

Many believe docking tails is cruel. Others say it is a necessity for some working breeds. Whoever is right, you don’t help the debate by impersonating Shirley Temple.


Leah & Robin Darbyshire said...

Did you not listen to the audience on Question Time on Thursday? Have you not read the discussion on CK on the BBC news website? Have you been canvassing recently?

From all these sources and from talking to non-political friends and colleagues I find former Lib Dem voters are very disenchanted by what has happened to Charles. Many are saying they will not vote for us again because of it.

I cannot see how we've done well here at all and it is quite clear to me that a lot of activists are very out of touch with what the voters are thinking. Not a good thing for a political party.

Leah & Robin Darbyshire said...

PS Sources tell me Sarah Teather is now receiving hate mail for her involvement in the Charles assassination....that does not suggest it was a popular move

Angus J Huck said...


"Sources" tell you that Sarah Teather has received hate mail as a consequence of her role in the deposition of Charles Kennedy.

Ergo, the removal of Kennedy is unpopular. Ergo, Charles should remain leader, irrespective of his competence and suitability for the job.

How much hate mail? One letter? Two letters? Maybe two dozen letters?

If so, what proposition does this prove?

It might simply suggest that some sick individual spends his time harrassing MPs for amusement. Or that one individual is so outraged by Kennedy's removal that he does a bit of stalking.

It tells us NOTHING WHATSOEVER about overall public opinion on the matter.

Joe Otten said...

The SNP has done it. The Tories have done it twice. Everybody assassinates.

Well, except Labour. They tolerated a leader taking them to war on a lie. If there was ever a case for assassination, that was it. That they didn't was a wretched moral failure.