Saturday, August 21, 2010

Those Charles Kennedy Rumours

Charles Kennedy and Nick Clegg on campaign trail in Glasgow
Your writer is just to the left of shot with other candidates

Yesterday evening as we were travelling the rumours of a Charles Kennedy defection to Labour started to circulate.

Charles Kennedy was one of the early SDP success stories taking the Ross, Cromarty and Skye seat in the 1983 General Election: just after a young Liberal, named Simon Hughes, was elected in a by-election in Bermondsey. Charles is the last incumbent Lib Dem MP who was elected on an SDP ticket and I like the fact that both he and Simon are becoming the spokespeople for the conscience of the party. They are two of the senior members who came from different perspectives to rise to the top.

However, the rumours appear to be either Labour led or some are suggesting from right-wing bloggers to destabilise the coalition. Looking back at that January day in 2006 when Charles resigned the leadership there were no rumours that that was the step he was going to take that morning. I know I was caught up in the media circus being phoned to come to the studio for an interview before the speed of change overtook that. So I don't think he's allow rumours of this kind to get out, he'd make the move and do it.

But I don't think he'd make the move. At his first PMQ deputising for Cameron Nick Clegg reasserted that the party opposite had gone into an illegal war in Iraq. That is the view of the vast majority in our paty, including of course Charles Kennedy. I don't think he'd feel at ease sitting shoulder to shoulder with the Labour members who voted for that war. The same goes for other former Labour members who are now part of the Lib Dems, who I suspect are the "rumoured colleagues" that Charles Kennedy will bring with him.

Life within the Liberal Democrats is often a tightrope of ideological struggle between the various strands of thoughts on issues. Liberal Democrats are used to fighting for their corner and their point of view even with their colleagues. We don't give up that fight easily and after 100 days of coalition government and looking around the blogosphere and see that after initial trepidation the party is starting to speak its heart and mind once again.

That is why I think Charles and Simon and others will act from within the party and not seek to do things from elsewhere. Also there is the comment made earlier this week Nick Clegg:

"If we weren't in a coalition now I don't think people would take any notice of the Liberal Democrats.

"If we were in a coalition with Labour arguably our identity crisis would be even worse."

Also if you are dissatisfied about the way the Government is doing things the easier way to bring about that change is from within that Government rather than from the other side of the House, which currently after 13 years of leadership is merely leading the league in whinging.

If Charles Kennedy is to be a figurehead within the party for the social liberal agenda being heard I'd be more that happy to man the rigging or scrub the decks for that good ship. I'm not, however, for lowering the flag of liberalism to raise a flag of convenience of any hue.

Read also: Not always you see Tom Harris defending Lib Dems, he is often doing just the opposite, but he is defending Charles from some totally unfounded claims.

3 comments:

Frenetica said...

It would be a strange upside down world if Charles joined, or otherwise helped, Labour. Whilst an individual has the right to change their mind, or to do what they feel is in their own interests/conscience, any sizeable defection would put a big question mark over the workings of our party democracy in representing the voice of the party in its parliamentary decisions and party hierarchy.

I questioned that democracy at the time of the removal of Charles, after an election which was not really bettered this time around.

I do believe it is possible for the Lib Dems to take part in coalition politics, which means reaching agreement with either old party and not just Labour. But it will always be tricky and can never be unanimous, which then makes me question the fidelity of the 'special conference' that backed the coalition.

That said, on the social justice issues that plague social liberals and Lib Dem affiliated social democrats, it is something of a let down that we are failing to offer solutions and ideas to achieve such aims in the new world of undeniable austerity. Opposition can talk the popularism of 'no cuts' and offer no solutions - we can't, and our policies have always been anchored in the real world. Yes, social justice demands Lib Dem champions but through policy, not rhetoric.

Back to democracy. We are a one-member-one-vote democratic party, and whilst we do not elect our MP's to parliament, altogether we are the guardians of Liberalism in the UK and the aims of the party constitution. Democracy can be cumbersome in itself, and what I call 'sensitive democracy' - which aims for the greatest fidelity - would be more so, but never in the longer term!

Munguin said...

I don't quite see where else Charles can go now the Lib Dems parliamentary party and activists are all Tories. I don't suppose the electorate will see it as one sided as you do.

Your complicated excuses and protracted reasoning will not, I think, go down well with the electorate. To that end no doubt you are looking forward to the elction in May where no doubt you will receive the warm endorsement of the people or will get a total drubbing. No prize for guessing where my money lies. I hope you are not totally anhilated as I do want to see you propping up First Minister Gray in Scotland while propping up Prime Minister Cameron in England. Alex and the SNP are going to have a field day, really a gift from heaven all wrapped up with a yellow bow and delivered by a yellow dove. And you think you're on a tight rope now?

Stephen Glenn said...

Hey guys sorry for the delay in getting back to you have been moving back to Northern Ireland this weekend.

Frenetica we are only a one-member-one-vote democracy when it comes to certain elections within the party. When it come to policy at Federal level we send representatives based on size of party to cast votes. In Scotland we have omov on policy.

However, we can work in the coalition and will continue tobring our policy decisions into the mix on all issues. Yes it is tough when we can't enact all out policy as set out by those conference reps (including me for parts of it) but we dont have the overall majority.

Munguin, I've just had a check on the membership card in my wallet in case some foul magic was afoot. But it appears that this particular activist in still a Liberal Democrat. I thne check the contents on my blog and still see that my writings lean to the social liberalism.

If Alex Salmond is going to have a field day it will surely be an attempt to bury the failure of his government to deliver on many of the key policy pledge he made in 2007. The election mext may is on his performance record afterall. Which doesn't make for good reading.

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