by Stephen Tall on September 19, 2006
As expected, Charles Kennedy received a generous reception for what was going to be one of the most difficult speeches of his life: a high-wire act on stilts.
He knew every dot and comma – every crossed ‘t’ and dotted ‘i’ – would be parsed, scrutinised, and analysed by commentators desperate to put a fag paper between him and the new leadership.
(Not least because the resounding acceptance of the Tax Commission proposals had robbed the commentariat of their much-desired “Lib Dems in disarray” headlines.)
So how did Charles do?
He did just fine. It was a surprisingly understated speech, ranging widely (and lengthily) across the spectrum of political issues. It covered all the ground you would expect of a leader’s speech – but it certainly didn’t sound like a pitch for the leadership, or even the front bench.
Rather, his deliberate invoking of the spirit of Robin Cook suggested he was looking forward to a period of quiet reflection, punctuated by occasional forays into battle on those issues about which he cares most – from Lords reform, to PR for Westminster, to Europe.
Of one thing I’m pretty sure – the hoarse delivery suggested he hasn’t kicked his smoking habit.