Thursday, January 05, 2006

Career on the rocks

So Charlie has pressed the button marked 'self-destruct' and decided to put the matter of his leadership out to the masses in the style of John Major.

While you have to applaud his (eventual) honesty about one of the worst-kept secrets in politics, I don't think that the news that he's an alcoholic (although dry for two months, apparently) will impress the party. He's specifically denied those accusations when they have been put to him and has only decided to admit the truth when forced to by a TV programme. He's also cynically shifted the focus from the political failings to his personal problems and those will prove hard to attack without the other side appearing heartless.

I wish him well and note that he's not the first alcoholically challenged MP - Churchill is one of the famous cases and George Brown famously helped to create the Private Eye shorthand for drunk, 'tired and emotional.' But does it disqualify him from the leadership?

The big question now is who will stand against him and this marks his best chance of survival. Mark Oaten and Simon Hughes have said that they would not stand against Chatshow, so has his statement that 'it is open to any colleague' released them from that promise? (Oaten has now specifically confirmed that he will not stand and will campaign for Charlie). And they're spinning like mad at the moment. Lembit Opik is proclaiming his loyalty to the leader and praising him for his honesty - all pushing about the drink and not a word about the problems with the party.

To settle this, a serious contender needs to come forward. Time to put up or shut up, Ming.

UPDATED: Ming is being merciful tonight and won't stand. Simon Hughes looks to be wavering a little and is now saying that he hasn't thought about running against Charlie. What - never? Well, hardly ever....

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