Before I went to work for a top secret government funded research organisation I was politically active in the Liberal Democrats. I was not an important Lib Dem. They didn’t get much in the way of membership fee from me, but I posted leaflets at election and outwith election times. I was not high up the Lib Dem food chain. However, I was aware of rumours regarding Charles Kennedy and his drinking. Indeed, after the start of the year everyone with an interest in these matters now knows about Kennedy and his alcoholism. He held a press conference and stood up and told the world. And then – ironically – was forced out because – it appeared to an interested observer – he was recovering from the worst of his illness and his sobriety was obviously causing great harm to the party.
So why are the Times splashing on a new biography of Kennedy, and the politics pages on the BBC news website reporting the Kennedy had/has drink problem stories? It appears the key element in the reports is that Kennedy apparently had the problem for longer than he had declared and so Charles becomes the latest in a long line of Kennedys to have his character assassinated. On my reading this “revelation” means that when Kennedy took the pivotal decisions of his leadership – the opposition to the war on Iraq – he was in the throes of alcoholism. It’s not clear to me that it obviously skewed his political judgment.
However, there are only two political question for a Lib Dem to ask about Kennedy. Did he drink by the light of an energy efficient light bulb? And did he recycle the bottles?1
1. This joke has been recycled, but sadly I cannot remember the source. Any help gratefully received.