Under the heading “He’s finished as leader, and the party should tell him so” Peter Riddel writes in the Times:-
“CHARLES KENNEDY is finished as Liberal Democrat leader. It is only a question of time. He put himself and his future before the long-term interests of his party. His decision to appeal over the heads of his 62 MPs to the 73,000 party members in the country on a â€œput-up-or-shut-upâ€ appeal guarantees lasting bitterness and division, even if he wins any leadership ballot.Mr Kennedyâ€™s admission that he has a drink problem, for which he has received professisonal help, comes after weeks and months of speculation and specific denials. His statement was less brave than forced by an imminent ITN report. There will be widespread sympathy with his personal plight, which he believes has been â€œessentially resolvedâ€. But Mr Kennedy had repeatedly given misleading answers about his drinking. That alone makes him an implausible person to lead his party into another general election…”
John Rentoul in the Independent under the heading “Charles Kennedy has resorted to the nuclear option and has lost in doing so”
“..The Kennedy who intends to fight a leadership election lasting several weeks is not the Chatshow Charlie of fond memory, but a recovering alcoholic who admits that he should have been willing to be open about his problem before. It may be that a nonconformist party will take a reformed character to its heart. It forgave Paddy Ashdown his sexual adventures. And many heavy drinkers and recovering alcoholics have made great contributions to British politics, Winston Churchill and Alastair Campbell to name but two. But a leadership election is an unpredictable quantity. Ask David Davis…The nuclear option may turn out to be a mirage. It was always part of a pact of mutually assured destruction. He had the threat of a leadership election. His MPs had the threat of a vote of no confidence. Now it is clear that they have no confidence in him – yesterday’s statement may be enough to persuade party members, for the time being, that Kennedy deserves their support. But he is not prepared to put that to the test with his own MPs. He does not trust his appeal to convince the people with whom he has to work politically.That changes the chemistry of a leadership election too. Not even Liberal Democrats, nice people that they are, can easily re-elect a leader who does not command the confidence of his parliamentary colleagues.
Under the heading “Kennedy plans his own assassination” the main leader in the Daily Telegraph declares:-
“….He has, however, exhibited deplorable judgment in choosing to call a leadership contest in an attempt to justify his belief that he should remain in charge of the Liberal Democrats.He is advancing no policy platform or programme on which he might claim to invite the renewed support of his party, other than that he is now sober, not having had a drink for two months. A reliance on alcohol does not rule anyone of talent out of high political office – Asquith was notorious for attending the Commons drunk when prime minister, and Churchill’s daily consumption of champagne, claret and brandy was for decades prodigious.However, both Asquith – until the crisis after the Battle of the Somme – and Churchill enjoyed the confidence of their closest and most significant colleagues. Mr Kennedy manifestly does not..”
The Guardian’s main leader, under the heading “Drink is not the real problem” observes:-
..If Mr Kennedy was frank yesterday, he was therefore also admitting that he had not been frank in the long years through which rumours and whispers of his drinking had seeped into the public consciousness. Not frank, either, in the interviews he gave every day until yesterday. Human respect for a man facing his drink problem inescapably coexists here with a harsher judgment that Mr Kennedy has let his party down – and may have done so for perhaps a large portion of his leadership. This is a question on which there is no room or obligation for sentiment.Neither should it be thought that his statement answers his critics’ case against him. He still fails to understand that his colleagues’ open defiance – on show long before yesterday’s statement – is a product not of his past drinking but his own wider failings as a leader..”
On the Betfair betting exchange Simon Hughes has taken over from Menzies Campbell as favourite to be the next leader. We expect other betting markets to be establised during the day and we will provide links from here.