How quickly do events overrun the tardy blogger. A few weks ago, when Charles Kennedy went public about his drinking, I started writing a piece about him, and his revelations’ potential effect on the Liberal Democrats. I didn’t post it that day, and by the following evening things had changed so dramatically that what I said was almost useless as a post.
Later I started a replacement piece, but I never got round to completing and posting that, either. Today’s by-election victory is slightly ironic, then, considering that what I was originally saying was mainly that he really had to resign because he had become an electoral liability to his party. Add to that the Lib Dem leadership election and its Shock! Horror! personal revelations, and many would have expected them to do badly at the polls the next time they had a chance.
And then we get Dunfermline. Which suggests to me that the personal affairs of the actual and potential party leadership are minor items at best in the eyes of the voters. And also that people (in Scotland, at least) have had enough of Blair’s repulsive Tory-lite policies, and are (not surprisingly) unimpressed by, and suspicious of, Cameron’s cuddly stealth-Tory aproach.
I hoped, in my original piece, that the Lib Dems would be able to recover from their problems, because they’re an important force in British politics. Not least because they’re still the only ones taking a principled stand against ID cards, on which everyone but No2ID seems to have gone silent recently. Now I’d have to add the hope that the new guy, Willie Rennie, can get himself established in the Commons in time to vote against the next reading of the Bill.
I never thought that, in my life, I would be toasting a Labour by-election defeat, while at the same time bemoaning their privatisation and (lack of) civil-liberties policies; but we live in interesting times. Times in which Britain desperately needs a third force in politics; and it remains the case — perhaps more so than ever, today — that the Liberal Democrats can be that force.
But I wish they weren’t needed: I want the Labour party back.