Saturday, September 23, 2006

Charles Kennedy - my part in his downfall

Like Iain Dale, I was struck by the lack of a mea culpa moment from Charles Kennedy on Tuesday.

Indeed in all the comments I have heard from Charles since he stood down, there has been no sense at all that he thinks he did anything wrong and one senses he still has 'issues'. I'm no moralistic teetotaller myself, but I tend to harrumph a bit at this modern insistence that alcoholism is an illness. It seems to deny any sense of personal responsibility and imply that suffering from it is simply a piece of bad luck – like a bad dose of influenza.

Perhaps this is a safe moment to mention my own encounter with Kennedy's 'illness'. As leader he visited Watford in 2002 at the launch of Dorothy's mayoral campaign. He took part in a walkabout in the town centre, which went well enough. But he looked pale, washed out and genuinely ill.

Charles made it only a couple of minutes through his speech before rushing out to the lavatory. We all assumed either that he had a very bad dose of gastric flu or similar. Perhaps naively, we didn't really think of alcohol, because he didn't fit the stereotype – not red faced, bombastic, tired or emotional. But it was all still a little bit embarrassing. How little we knew!


Alex Wilcock said...

Unless alcohol is a magical preventative, there is always the possibility that he may have been 'genuinely ill' with 'a very bad dose of gastric flu or similar'. It may have been wrong for people to protect him by saying absolutely nothing was down to drink, but I'd be just as doubtful of the reverse. I know that when I'm ill, which is often, it weakens my system and makes me prone to other illnesses; might not the same be true of alcoholism?

B said...

I think his problems were well-known, and caused more damage to him than the Party. We needed him to move on.