Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Charles Kennedy starts cracking the coalition

The first public signs of the strain the coalition deal is placing on the Lib Dems came this morning with Charles Kennedy MP speaking out against the proposed cuts in public spending.

It is a first move, though significant enough to merit the front page of the Daily Record. (Which in turn led to the paper getting a mention on the Today programme -how often does that happen?)

In parliament yesterday fellow Lib Dem Bob Russell chastised George Osborne for "unethical" cuts to the welfare budget. These are cracks in the vase, the opening shots in what will become the battle for the soul of the Liberal Democrat party.

I don't expect there will be blood on the carpet at the Lib Dem conference in Liverpool next week. A bit like the TUC here in Manchester it will probably have a phoney war feel to it. The serious stuff comes when the cuts start biting next year.

Despite his personal life leading the headlines of late Kennedy remains a substantial political figure and a key player in determining the future of the Lib Dems.

Kennedy says he is reluctant to become an irritant, sniping at the government from the sidelines. But with Cameroonian outriders like Tory MP Nicholas Boles already calling for an electoral pact between the parties, the Highland MP may be stirred to defend his Jo Grimmond, left-of-centre, Liberalism from appropriation

Kennedy has lots of experience of party mergers, remember he started in the SDP and was one of the first movers for the creation of the Liberal Democrats.

It should also be remembered that it was during his time as leader that the party managed to gain a record 62 MPs and 22% of the vote, much more than Nick Clegg achieved on the back of his TV debate exposure.

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