Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lets not forget to blame Charlie Kennedy

There have been many pixels spilt (and some amount of hair pulling) since the local elections about the shortcomings or otherwise of our Glorious Leader and the position the party finds itself in. Amongst all the finger pointing and name calling I haven't seen mention of the name of the person who must carry a share of the responsibility, Charles Kennedy.

One of Ming's main problems, from where I sit at least, is that he has never managed to get ahead of the curve in terms of defining media's narrative on the Lib Dems in the post Kennedy era. This has been partially his fault, a couple of bad performances at PMQs early on mixed in with a couple of conference gaffes have allowed the Media ample chance to poke fun and question his credibility. But, and this is a big but, a major part of the problem is that the party spent a lot of its political capital prising Charlie's cold dead hands from the leadership. From that point onwards whoever won the subsequent leadership election was always going to be swimming against the media tide.

It appeared to me (and I'm sure I wasn't alone) that the Kennedy era was starting to run out of steam before the 2005 election; something his lacklustre performance during the campaign only served to confirm. If he had walked away then, (6 years in the job, time for a change, new baby equals new priorities) he would have been hailed as one of the few politicians who walked away leaving the crowd wanting more and the new leader would have had a clean slate to work from. Even if he had walked away in November when the putsch started, and it quickly became clear that he was a dead man walking, the damage would have been slight. However, he held on and held on, forcing people whose only crime up to that point had been excessive loyalty to a failing leader to be publicly disloyal, and poisoning the well for whoever followed him.

Enough revisionist history. We are where we are. So where next? Well only those with the most rose-tinted view of the world would deny Ming has a problem. The media seems to have decided he is not up to the job, and unless he can turn that perception around soon he risks suffering the same death by a thousand cuts that IDS did. Given that as a party we live and die by our leader even more than the other two , as the inhabitant of one of our most at risk seats that worries me immensely.

This does not mean that we need to push the panic button yet. I voted for Ming, having switched from being a Huhne supporter, and still believe I made the right choice. If he can start building up a small head of steam, and a winnable by-election would help, the story could quickly become Ming's momentum rather than Lib Dems stalling.

However, he and his advisers need to take a good hard look at themselves and ask whether they can turn things around. If they don't believe they 100% can, Ming must go. A dignified, unforced, exit in the summer (steadied the ship, put in place the foundations for future success, but now its time for a younger (wo)man to take the party forward) may release a lot of the latent hostility in press from January last year, and we will owe him a great debt. If he takes the Kennedy route, clings on and has to be removed later in a blood bath the party may not recover for quite some while.


Blogger Paul Walter said...

Well done for an excellent analysis

8:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't agree that the leader is more important for us than the other two. Indeed, the opposite is true. Because we are a much more local party and because our leader is not obviously a candidate for Number 10, his or her identity matters less.

11:44 pm  
Blogger Letterman said...

The problem with the 'winnable by-election' is that the Lib Dem team has long since proved that it can win with or without a credible leader. Lib Dem by-election victories aren't the validation of the leadership they once were.

And to annonymous 'we are a much more local party'. Surely everything matters? Yes local campaigning but also yes to a good leader - if we get our way and get STV for the general elections the leader will be more important than ever.

8:14 pm  
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6:44 am  

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