Sunday, 16 May 2010

Would Charles Kennedy have eaten the Tory sausage?

Solomon Hughes, writing in the Morning Star:

'What is the Liberals' role in the Con-Dem coalition? I looked at The Spectator's editorial to try and understand this complex conundrum from the Conservative point of view. And the answer, in the age of new politics is: "Eat my Tory sausage!" Lib Dem gristle is just there to make you swallow our Tory cuts...

The magazine is naked in its loathing for the Tories' political "partners." This means it views their role with an unsentimental clarity. Under the headline "Victory," The Spectator says: "The strategy is fairly clear: give Lib Dems more Cabinet crowns and chauffeurs than they could have dreamed of. Tie them in for five years and have them defend Tory policy on the airwaves. And then, crucially, let them share the blame for the Irish-style spending cuts to come."

Not all Lib Dems, it seems, find the Tory sausage as appetising as Nick Clegg and Vince Cable apparently do. Charles Kennedy, former party leader, is one of those feeling rather queasy about it.

In today's Observer, Kennedy champions the legacy of Roy Jenkins, who he views as embodying a strong 'centre-left' current in the modern Lib Dems, while lambasting the right-wing 'Owenites' who, following David Owen, have previously been content to do deals with Tories. While polite and tactful about today's 'Owenites', the rebuke is unmistakeable. If he was still party leader, Kennedy seems to imply, a centre-right coalition would have been rejected.

Here is the most important paragraph:

'With uncharacteristic understatement, Paddy Ashdown described last week's events as "a rather unexpected moment". Certainly, they drive a strategic coach and horses through the long-nurtured "realignment of the centre-left" to which leaders in the Liberal tradition, this one included, have all subscribed since the Jo Grimond era. It is hardly surprising that, for some of us at least, our political compass currently feels confused. And that really encapsulates the reasons why I felt personally unable to vote for this outcome when it was presented to Liberal Democrat parliamentarians.'


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