Charles Kennedy came out fighting this morning on the Today programme. He was on sufficiently good form to make anyone wonder what the fuss is about.
For those of us outside the bubble, it is hard to know what to make of it all. Clearly there are enough people at the top sufficiently exasperated with Charles for it all to have become an issue: this wouldn’t have blown up as it has if it was just a couple of would-be leaders getting impatient.
On the other hand, I can’t help feeling that some people expect the Lib Dem leader to by hyperactive as Paddy Ashdown was in trying to get the party into the headlines. So they find Kennedy’s laid-back style frustrating. But Kennedy seems to go down well with the electorate precisely because he does not appear as a politician on the make and doesn’t behave as though politics is everything.
My problem with Kennedy is that he tries to rise above the internal party debates, indicating that he sort of agrees with the Orange Book crowd, but wants to avoid antagonising those who disagree. Here I think he does need to show leadership. In my view the future of the party must lie with the Cleggs, Laws, Daveys and Oatens, because there can be no future as a major player for a party that simply calls for taxation and public spending to be always just a little bit higher than whatever they happen to be now.
Kennedy is seen as less ideologically driven than some of those mentioned above. He has a chance to nudge the party firmly in a more distinctively Liberal direction, while avoiding the kind of ill-feeling that would arise if an Orange-Booker took over now!