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Kennedy's future...

Nick Robinson | 16:55 UK time, Thursday, 5 January 2006

News travels fast....I was just about to broadcast the following story when I heard that Charles Kennedy is to make a personal statement at 5.45 pm. Perhaps he knew!

The BBC has learnt that just under half of Charles Kennedy's Shadow Cabinet have signed a letter informing him that they no longer have confidence in his leadership. The letter has not yet been presented to Mr Kennedy but he is said to be aware of its existence. Eleven out of 23 party spokespeople - ranging from junior to senior figures - signed the letter before Christmas. This did not include the three men most likely to run for party leader if Mr Kennedy stands down or is removed. Had any one of Sir Menzies Campbell, Simon Hughes and Mark Oaten added their names there would have been a majority of Mr Kennedy's top team calling - in effect - for him to resign. Those who signed the letter hoped it would convince Mr Kennedy that he had no choice but to stand aside. Many of the signatories hoped it would stay secret but some - frustrated that their leader continues to resist calls on him to go - have made its existence public.

I forsee two possibilities - either Mr Kennedy does a John Major (1995 for the non political trainspotters among you) and calls for a motion of confidence in his own leadership - or he stands aside.


  • 1.
  • At 05:12 PM on 05 Jan 2006,
  • nunobensen wrote:

So it's not just a pre-emptive strike at more booze stories in the press tomorrow then?

  • 2.
  • At 05:17 PM on 05 Jan 2006,
  • Manjit wrote:

I think Kennedy will probably have to call for a motion of confidence. I thought the excellent Norman Baker made good points on last nights Newsnight saying that now the media has got there teeth in the story they will continue digging until something gives.

Guess the Tories will not be happy given that there 4th policy review on Health/Education has been knocked off the News agenda.

Either way it looks like he is going. It seems the Liberals are feeling a touch left out of all this leadership shuffling. He has delivered the best election results since DLG. Though I would concur he is not the face for the fight with Cameron and Milibrowne!

I think Charles Kennedy is great but I have a feeling he'll be more likely to star in the next BBC comedy show than be Prime Minister. It's starting to sound like he's losing the ability to control his party. He may want to remain leader, but that's not much use if most of your own spokespeople don't! I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before the three big people who haven't signed start turning against him.

  • 5.
  • At 05:33 PM on 05 Jan 2006,
  • Eric Moffat wrote:

Charles Kennedy has been in my judgement, very successful. In some ways, his success is a necessary and sufficient condition of, firstly, the division Tony Blair has created in Britain by assenting to the war in Iraq and secondly, the calm, confident stance Kennedy has taken.

I do not see how an "aggressive" style of leadership can, of itself, prove of any better success. Indeed, in Parliament it will generate more heat than light. There is a point at which things 'run out'. The Lib dems have ideas that are simply outdated and insuffient for the present.

  • 6.
  • At 06:24 PM on 05 Jan 2006,
  • William T wrote:

It seems a curious anomaly that Charles Kennedy is - or at least was in the BC years (Before Cameron) - easily the most liked of the party leaders amongst the wider country - and yet, going by the signatories on this letter, clearly commands deep frustration at all levels of his party.

Do you think his colleagues will be more supportive now he's finally confirmed what has been something of a running joke for many years, or will they be further antagonised that the extra public sympathy he might now cammand will cast anyone who stands against him in a villainous light?

  • 7.
  • At 06:26 PM on 05 Jan 2006,
  • Bob Drumgold wrote:

I think that although Charles has delivered good election results, he needs to consider the position of the party and no one person is bigger than the party.
As a member, I would personally vote for Mark Oaten as he is of the right generation to take us into the next election.

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