Saturday, January 07, 2006

Loyalty, Responsibility and My Leader

Yesterday morning, I wrote to Charles Kennedy and asked him to stay. I told him how proud and admiring I was of the way he dealt with his statement the previous evening. I suggested that there was still scope for a great Clinton-esque comeback. I genuinely hoped the public would react positively. I felt that Kennedy had done a great deal for the party, and was the best man to oversee the much-needed professionalisation and regeneration of the party. I wrote something similar here, on this blog, and it seems to have been the only piece of unequivocal support the Guardian could find for inclusion in their blog roundup.

Now, I'm e-mailing him to express my sympathies again, but to suggest he may have to stand aside. It is the opposition of the parliamentary party that makes it impossible for Charles to continue. I would have been proud to have defended him on the doorstep, but I realised late last night that to continue to encourage Charles to stay was irresponsibility on my part. I truly echoed Lembit Opik's feelings that Charles could have a second chance, but I accept that our MPs, who publicly represent our party, cannot be completely ignored in their own assessment.

I don't blame the MPs for their response. This whole episode has the character of a Greek tragedy. There are no real villains- except, perhaps, the trouble-strring Ben Ramm and the bitterness in Jenny Tonge's comments on Charles's statement. The MPs had a right to expect to be told about a problem when they asked him, and they are, almost exclusively, acting in the best interests of the Liberal Democrat party, as they call them. I would have hoped it could have been different, and I don't regret trying to make people see the positive opportunities of the situation when I wrote what I wrote on Friday morning.

At the end of the day, I asked whether there was a stage when a broader responsibility to the party trumped the loyalty I feel to a guy I admire and like, even though I've never actually spoken to him. It seems now that it was is a physical impossibility for Charles to come back from this. That is a real tragedy, as it would have made a profound point that politicians could be human and vulnerable and still play a leading role in the future of our country. We seem to have reached a stage where sustaining Charles's leadership would serve only to undermine the very principles and policies he's so successfully advanced. I am left wondering if my loyalty has become sycophancy because I want to be loyal, rather than because I actually believe I'm advising him wisely?

And so I'm about to send my e-mail to him. And I feel like shit. It comes to a point when you admit that no amount of grassroots support can heal these wounds and allow Liberal Democracy to be advanced. I wanted him to succeed; I told him he could; and now I'm just another grassroots member walking away from the guy who's been my hero for the past 6 years. There are days when I feel confident about the choices I've made, but today I believe I'm making a cruel decision for the right reasons. I am a Charles Kennedy supporter, not a Charles Kennedy sycophant.