It seems to me that this is a reflection of the increasing tendency in British politics to play down the big, divisive issues - particularly at election time. Several issues will cast a long shadow across the lifetime of the current parliament and beyond: Trident, for example, the future role of civil nuclear power and the recurrent reality of Britain's place within Europe. These are all real issues of strategic substance that cut across conventional party political lines, but as they're not considered "vote winners" they were barely raised during the last election.While there was little to disagree with in the programme, I was surprised to hear those views coming from Charles. I served on the Federal Policy Committee for several years whilst he chaired it as leader, and never gained the impression that he had strong views on policy questions.
At election time politicians from all parties knew that these were key issues and yet they were not actively debated. Why? Because they weren't important? No. It was because the debate wouldn't have helped win votes.
Veterans of the Ashdown years remember pre-meetings of loyalists to ensure that the leadership's line prevailed. There was nothing like this in Charles Kennedy's day: he just chaired the meetings impartially. In a way this was welcome, but it did suggest that Charles great appeal as leader was that he did not threaten any wing of the party.
It allowed all sorts of policy to develop, but how well it all fitted together is another matter. There was a feeling that the party lacked direction, and it was this that did for Charles in the end - quite apart from any "health" problems.
The idea that a party's leader must originate all of its policy is a modern heresy, but he should have some interest in the area. Charles seemed to lack that interest, which is why I do not take talk of his returning to the leadership one day too seriously.