Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Thish ish all about personalities – It's the ishoos that matter

… As Tony Benn might say.

I find it hard to get interested in let alone excited about this instant biography of Charles Kennedy by a hack I’ve never heard of.

And much of the talk about whether Lib Dem MPs were too cruel or too kind to Charles or whether they ‘covered up’ his drink problem is nonsense too.

I don’t claim any great medical expertise, but whereas it’s pretty obvious if someone has a cold or has broken their leg, drink problems are harder to be certain about:

A likes a drink. B gets drunk at parties. C is a heavy drinker, D has a drink problem, E is an alcoholic, F is a recovering alcoholic. All the above categories may segue into one another and to the untrained eye it is hard to tell exactly which stage someone is at. I once had a work colleague who was more or less permanently drunk, but quite lucid, by no means incapacitated and perfectly capable of doing his job. Other people might occasionally have a couple of pints at lunchtime and be knocked out for the afternoon.

It was quite understandable that journalists and Lib Dem MPs alike did not rush to publicise whatever they may have known about Charles’s difficulties with alcohol. Charles should have gone quietly once he had lost colleagues’ confidence and dealt with his problem quietly and discreetly away from the limelight.

The new biography will end up on the remainder shelves soon enough. Charles as an outgoing leader who brought the party some success is entitled to a speech at conference. One trusts that conference will be stage managed enough to ensure that Charles does not upstage Ming.

Being a new third party leader is a tough job anyway – Thorpe, Steel and Ashdown all saw a drop in the party’s number of seats in their first election as leader. So it’s no surprise that things are tough for Ming now, but there is plenty of time for him to establish himself before the next election.

All in all, a storm in a tea cup – or even a whisky glass.

Let’s talk about the ishoos!

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