A few years back you couldn’t turn on the news without some sort of leadership crisis in the Conservative party – now it seems that the Liberal Democrats have picked up the same disease. I commented last year about the group of relative unknowns who ousted Charles Kennedy. Menzies Campbell won the subsequent leadership election – which ever since I’ve found slightly strange as of the members of the party I know, nobody seems to have voted for him – in fact the majority of them seem to think it was a generally poor move to elect him at all. Indeed most of them seemed to think the party had made a dreadful mistake to oust Charles Kennedy in the first place.
That opinion seems to have been reflected in the opinion of the general public, as the poll figures for the party have slid steadily down ever since, leading ultimately to his resignation as leader today.
But then comes the question of who could replace him, looking at the runners and riders the only two recognisable figures to me are Simon Hughes who having been beaten twice before has ruled himself out already, and Charles Kennedy the former leader. To be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if the party re-elected Charles Kennedy, despite the periodic hiccups such as the recent smoking incident on the train to Plymouth.
Of course the question to consider is whether they should go for someone who is already known or make a clean break. The Conservative party seem to have built their resurgence on the back of a photogenic new leader, and without much in the way of tangible policies either, much as Labour did a decade or so before with Blair. Effectively both grew in a large part out of effectively criticising the sitting government rather than anything particularly radical. Maybe some new relatively unknown leader is what the Liberal Democrats need? Certainly what they don’t need is many more years of leadership instability…