Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tick tock, tick tock (again)

Poor old Chuckles.

He must feel like Captain Hook - wherever he goes, there's this ticking noise in the background and he's waiting for the alarm to go off and the sharp-toothed beast to shred his career.

Now, at least, we've another Liberal Democrat breaking cover to criticise the leader (correct at time of going to press). Lord McNally offered the usual lukewarm support yesterday, repeating the Hughes request last week for the party to get behind the leadership (for the next twenty weeks or so, at any rate). Simon did make the interesting comment that Charlie 'has to win the confidence of his colleagues' - which suggests that they don't have confidence in him. Susan Kramer (once the LD candidate to be Mayor of London and now an MP) came out this morning on the Today programme to call for an immediate leadership campaign to clear the air.
My personal feeling is as a party we have lost control over this issue. I think it's time that we went back very quickly to our membership and said here are candidates for our leader - I'm sure that would include Charles - and asked them for a verdict so that within in a matter of weeks we have a leader with a ringing endorsement from the party.

Pointedly, she refused to back him. Ed Davey, one of the younger set touted as a potential successor to Charlie, added his thoughts
'The need for some sort of change was established before Christmas and we await developments'

All this follows hard on the heels of a dubious internet poll from The Liberal magazine, which claimed over 3000 party members (allegedly including almost 400 councillors and a handful of MPs) had voted for Kennedy to do the decent thing. To be fair to Charlie, this poll is pretty meaningless, as there seems to be no way of confirming that voters are who they say they are - Rob Fenwick takes the poll apart fairly effectively here - but it falls into the trap of most internet polls - a self-selecting, unrepresentative sample. I doubt that Ben Ramm (who runs the magazine and the poll) will find that many supporters in his attempt to get a safe parliamentary seat for the Lib Dems. A hat tip to Bob Piper for the counter-poll, which has a massive 41 signatures in support of Charlie.

Increasingly, it looks like Chatshow won't make it to the end of next week, let alone the March conference or the May elections or less still the next general election. He's become the story and this will go on and on until he resigns. Still, he can always return for the next series of Have I Got News for You or perhaps it isn't too late to make a bid for Celebrity Big Brother.

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