Could he be the Lib Dems’ Alex Salmond?
Nominations open today for the race to succeed Ming as Lib Dem leader and will close on 31st October. (Voting closes 15th December with the winner unveiled two days later.) So far, the only news among possible runners is that Simon Hughes won’t be standing.
Much of the attention, and cash in the markets, has been focused on Nick Clegg (1.57 on Betfair) and last time’s runner-up Chris Huhne (currently trading at 4.6).
There’s one name that’s already splitting opinion however, if pb is anything to go by, and that’s Charles Kennedy. Just to quote two regular posters on the site, SBS said that he “would be extremely ill advised to run” while RodCrosby argued “there really is no alternative”.
So could Kennedy follow in the footsteps of Salmond and make a successful return to leading a party? My own view is that despite the Lib Dems’ high water mark of 62 seats in 2005, there were a couple of appearances from Kennedy (the “morning after” press conference and the Paxman interview) where he verged on the shambolic, and that with a “perfect storm” of both Labour and the Tories being unpopular, the party ought to have done even better.
But there does seem to be genuine warmth for Charlie within the party grassroots, and he certainly possesses much more of the common touch than Ming ever did. However, I think the risk is just too high, and the press would forever be trying to find evidence that the drink issue had not been conquered. With the second leadership contest in less than two years, the Lib Dems will be looking for more than just a “safe pair of hands” to take on a resurgent Conservative Party, but I remain to be convinced that Kennedy is their best hope.
For those of you who wish to invest in him on the markets, he trades this morning at 24 on Betfair, and the BBC’s “runners and riders” list is here.
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Mike Smithson returns full time on 18th October
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