Charles Kennedy

Charles Kennedy taking off or putting on a jacket
“I’ll get my coat!” (Photograph from Dale Rhodes Tailoring.)

Since beginning writing this post the Rt Hon Charles Kennedy MP has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats. Anyway, this is what I wrote:

I’m really feeling for the Rt Hon Charles Kennedy MP just now, after he admitted to be battling with alcohol addiction:

Liberal Democrat Charles Kennedy has called a leadership contest after admitting he has been battling with a drink problem.

He said he was determined to carry on as leader but wanted to give party members the “final say”.

Mr Kennedy – who has previously denied a drink problem – admitted seeking “professional help” to beat the bottle.

(Source: BBC News, Thursday 5 January 2006)

“Giving party members the final say”, of course, means a leadership election. And how are his fellow LibDem MPs supporting him? Well, they’re clearly not. This is from today’s BBC News website:

More than half of his 62 MPs told a BBC Newsnight survey that Mr Kennedy should go or said his position was untenable.

This was from an article that opened with:

Charles Kennedy has rejected claims he is in denial over his political career, after senior MPs urged him to quit.

Interesting use of the word ‘denial’ there. There was such a fuss made about his lying to people about his drink problem. Well, of course he was! Don’t they realise that he was lying to himself in the first place? That’s a key part of the whole denial aspect of substance addiction. Jane, who is a trained alcohol counsellor, pointed that out as soon as it was mentioned on the news. It wasn’t that he was deliberately misleading people, it was that he genuinely didn’t believe that had one. That’s the nature of the condition.

That he was finally open about it and admitted it publically is to be applauded. It should be seen as an incredibly brave move on his part, at a deeply personal level, that he recognised it and admitted it to himself and that he sought help. If he really hasn’t drunk any alcohol for two months that is surely to be praised.

And what an incredible example it could have been to the thousands of people here in the UK who are also struggling with alcohol problems. And the UK, I think I’m right in saying, has one of the highest rates of alcohol problems in Europe. And not just among adults either, but among children, and teenagers, and young adults too. And at every social strata too. I can’t help but think that how this has been handled isn’t healthy. I wonder how vulnerable other members of parliament now feel who also have a hidden drink problem.

That Charles Kennedy has been publically clawed apart in both the political and media spheres because of it — and now forced to resign — is, in my opinion, utterly disgusting. I hate the hypocrisy in politics, and in the media for that matter. You just have to read through any single issue of Private Eye to have an inkling of the double-standards and the deeds carried out through greed, vanity and ambition that go on behind the scenes.

I have long admired Charles Kennedy — I voted for him while I was living in Inverness, before the parliamentary boundaries had been moved. I applauded that the LibDems secured so many more seats this past General Election. I just hope that the LibDems haven’t shot themselves in the foot (or head!) on this one, because I do think that they could be the real alternative party.

We should pray for Charles Kennedy, for his family, for any others who are struggling with substance addictions, and for British politics in general.