Thursday, January 05, 2006

Kennedy, truth at last

Charles Kennedy has finally come clean. He's an alcoholic. The dramatic announcement was designed to pre-empt the press, so it wasn't an unprompted bout of honesty. It also means that Kennedy has systematically lied to a very wide range of people on the subject for years, including many of his own colleagues. His announcement was coupled with defiance on the leadership question, with a leadership election involving all of the party membership in the offing.

Will it all work? Kennedy calculates that he will win a ballot of the entire membership, as opposed to the MPs where the result would be in doubt. He also calculates that his admission will elicit sympathy from many people. I am not so sure about his mathematics. Many of his MPs will be furious, and he had major problems there already. His serial dishonesty about drinking will wreck his credibility with the media and the press will probably not be kind. Both pressures could yet force him out. The nightmare for the Liberal Democrats though might be that he is right. Suppose he wins a ballot of Liberal Democrat members? Much of the parliamentary party does not support him. Ask the Tories what it is like if the members pick a leader the MPs cannot work with.

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