Could smoking be what does for Charles next time?

Could smoking be what does for Charles next time?

kennedy drinking badge.jpg

    Would the train incident thwart any come-back plan?

It’s August and yesterday we got what looks like becoming a hardy annual in the run-up to the Lib Dem conference – the Charles Kennedy come-back story.

This year’s has been sparked off by his comments yesterday at Scotland’s “Festival of Politics” after he was asked if he was “..going to be the comeback kid?”

According to the BBC report he replied: “When you have been the leader of a national political party obviously you know what is involved, you are still of an age where you have got something to contribute, but you don’t have the relentless and remorseless demands upon you in quite the same way.”.In response to questions over his health, Mr Kennedy said: “I’m happy and fulfilled in what I’m doing and it’s up to me to keep it that way.”

On the face of it Kennedy could pose a serious challenge if he was to put himself forward in a new leadership contest. He’s far better known than any other Lib Dem and the relative failure of the man who ousted him, Ming, might encourage the party membership to go for a known and apparently safe pair of hands.

No doubt we will see poll findings suggesting that the party would be doing better if Kennedy returned and there’s a possibility that this could become the media narrative at next month’s conference.

My guess is that he would have a chance provided he could satisfy everyone that he has cracked his drinking problem. But there is a big problem – a story that did not get much publicity because it happened in the days after Brown’s arrival at Number 10 but which would be raked up if he did decide to try to get his job back.

This is the incident in July when he was warned by the police after he lit up on a train. It happened during the first week of the smoking ban in England and Kennedy was probably fortunate to get off with a warning after police intervened.

    It’s not the smoking that matters here but the apparent flagrant disregard of the smoking ban. It would also raise questions about his ability to control his addictions.

In the immediate aftermath of Ming’s election in March 2006 there was a betting market on his successor. For a short while you could have got 100/1 on Kennedy – a price that did not last long after it was published here on the site. I got £20 on at 33/1.

Mike Smithson

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