What would Charles Kennedy do?

Popular former Lib Dem leader would surely not want to rule out a Labour coalition.

Earlier today I revisited Nick Clegg's "disdain" for the Conservatives during an interview with me last year in which he refused, however, to rule out a coalition with the Tories. Further to that, and in this time of uncertaintly, in which perhaps even Clegg does not know what is going to happen, it is worth thinking about what the highly popular former leader of the Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy might be thinking right now.

Surely Kennedy, a former Social Democratic Party man with close ties to the Labour Party and distinctly leftist instincts, would be in favour of a deal with Gordon Brown, no?

Well, not necessarily. All Lib Dems are realists now and want maximum credibility as well as influence for their party. I have not spoken to Kennedy about the present situation. However, sources close to him indicate that although he is not arguing for a definite deal with Labour, he would not be happy unless all the options -- including the "progressive alliance" one -- were fully explored, and the forces of conservatism led by Rupert Murdoch resisted.

All we can do to help us guess at his views is again to look back, as we did with Clegg, at what he has said before -- this time at Kennedy's extremely dignified speech on his resignation, which after all came about partly as a result of the belief in Westminster that David Cameron was the new dynamic force in British politics:

My sincere parting advice as leader to the party is to keep that debate within the parameters of these principles -- and not to get unduly distracted by the machinations in other parties or what the vagaries of the British voting system may offer up at a future general election. That route will blur our identity and turn away the very voters who are still looking to us -- rightly so -- as their best hope for the future.

It is to that future which I will continue to work with enthusiasm. First, for the people of the Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency -- whom I am privileged to serve. And also for the continuing progress and success of our Liberal Democrat values -- values which, when best expressed, give voice to the many who might otherwise be insufficiently heard.

A new leader inherits a party with the largest House of Commons representation in the Liberal tradition in over 80 years. We secured a million more votes in our support at the last general election compared with the one before. We are established as serious players in the changing reality which is three-party politics across Britain. I believe that to be a good inheritance and a great opportunity. One in which I look forward to continuing to play my part. Thank you.

Incidentally, it is worth noting that, although only current members of the Lib Dem front bench are being touted as cabinet ministers in a full-blooded coalition, neither Paddy Ashdown nor Kennedy should be ruled out.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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