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Tuesday, February 01, 2005


No leadership contest this year, then

You read it here first.

In a
posting on October 20th, I forecast that Charles Kennedy would defy predictions of his resignation as party leader soon after the next general election and surprise everyone by deciding to stay on.

A story in this Monday's
Times supports my thesis.

His insistence on chairing the post-election policy review himself surprised his MPs, who see it as a clear sign that he wants to remain as leader for another Parliament. Although he has announced that he will carry on, some senior Lib Dems thought that he may quit.
This article eventually dissolves into trivia by suggesting Kennedy's future hinges on his attempts to lose weight. I would have thought that the election result and its aftermath are more decisive factors, but there you go.

The Times piece does at least hint at what is in store after the election.

The policy revamp may also be a way to absorb a debate triggered by last year’s publication of The Orange Book, a series of essays by leading Lib Dems advocating free-market economic liberalism which was attacked by the party’s Left. The debate was suppressed at the Lib Dem autumn conference but is likely to flare up after the election.
I doubt Kennedy's 'post-election policy review' will be sufficient to "absorb" the ideological splits opening up in the Liberal Democrats. The slaughter of some holy cows, such as English regional government, will find few mourners. But if, as seems likely, right-wing MPs persist in their attempts to turn the party into vehicle for their Eurosceptic and laissez-faire views, things will turn nasty.

There will be much blood on the carpet after polling day. Kennedy's leadership will face its severest test then, not in the election campaign. I shall watch his progress with interest.

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