Under pressure from several MPs to either call a vote of confidence or a full leadership election, Charles Kennedy has promised “direct and aggressive” leadership for the Liberal Democrats. Is this enough to stop senior figures from criticising his failure to fully utilise opportunities presented to the party, such as a weak Conservative party at the last general election, which could have been used to bolster the number of Lib Dem MPs beyond the 62 that were elected?
I think the problem for Kennedy at the moment is that he is starting to sound almost like Iain Duncan Smith with his “back me or sack me” attitude, which, as we are all well aware, did not do anything to bolster his leadership prospects. Kennedy is fortunate enough to have a party that is not quite as aggressive at undermining and back-stabbing its leaders as the Conservatives often are, but even so he cannot hold on to the top job forever if criticism is mounting about his leadership skills. Some members of the party have suggested waiting until the local elections and see how Kennedy performs then, although he may not have until then to impress the party sufficiently to remain as leader until May. He is also faced with an unbeat and rejuvenated Conservative party, who have historically done very well at local elections anyway, so if he does manage to survive until the local elections he will have to pull off something spectacular to impress his critics.