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Charles Kennedy Considers Defecting To Labour

charles kennedyWestminster sources are claiming that the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy, has been discussing defecting to the Labour Party, along with four or five Liberal Democrat colleagues. The reports have been confirmed by three separate sources, including one close to Ed Miliband’s Labour leadership campaign. Kennedy, along with the others are believed to be planning some announcement towards the end of the month – which would also coincide with ballot papers for the Labour leadership elections being sent out to party members. It is unclear whether there have been formal or informal contacts between the Kennedy and Miliband camps.

It has been widely known for some times that Charles Kennedy is unhappy at the coalition deal struck with David Cameron by his successor, Nick Clegg. These reservations are shared widely in the Liberal Democrat Party, and have given rise to separate reports that Business Secretary, Vince Cable, who is a former member of the Labour Party, was deeply unhappy at the time of the deal being struck and made last ditch appeals to outgoing Prime Minister Gordon Brown in an attempt to strike a Coalition deal with Labour. But reports that Kennedy, under whose leadership the Liberal Democrats enjoyed record levels of support, is countenancing defection will fuel speculation that he – and perhaps others – could be offered positions on the Opposition front bench – and a return from relative obscurity to front-line British politics.

Kennedy is known to be privately supportive of Ed Miliband, who he sees as a progressive alternative to his older brother David, who is widely perceived as the Blairite choice to succeed as Labour’s next leader. Any public support for Ed Miliband by Charles Kennedy and other leading Liberal Democrats could well tip the balance in Ed Miliband’s favour in Labour’s tightly fought leadership election race – a leadership race between two brothers.

Liberal Democrat insiders point to the fact that Kennedy and his supporters emerged from the SDP, the old Social Democratic breakaway party, but that in seeking to “break the mould” of British politics and merging with the Liberal to become the Liberal Democrats in the 1980s, never in their wildest dreams expected to end up supporting a minority Conservative Government intent on the most swingeing cuts in public spending since the Second World War. They are appalled by what they see as the surrender of many key Liberal Democrat cornerstone policies, such as the commitment not to renew the Trident Nuclear submarine. They also say that some Liberal Democrat MPs, especially in Northern English and Scottish seats where Labour is in second place, now fear being wiped out at the next General Election. These fears have been compounded by the recent announcement from the Liberal Democrat’s Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes that there will be no General Election pact between the Conservatives and his party. Tellingly Simon Hughes has also talked of a possible future Lib Lab Coalition, with Ed Miliband responding positively, although pointedly saying that any future coalition deal could only be struck with a new Liberal Democrat leader in place, in other words, not Nick Clegg.

Charles Kennedy’s own Scottish seat of Caithness and Sutherland has historically been a Labour seat, before it’s then MP, Robert Maclennan, defected to the SDP in the 1980s, and was the party’s last leader. Lord Maclennan, Lord Newby – a former founding member of the SDP and Chief of Staff under Charles Kennedy – and former MP and long time anti nuclear weapons campaigner, Lord Archy Kirkwood – are also being mentioned as possible supporters of the Kennedy initiative.


  1. Matthew Stiles says:

    Wow, could be a scoop for Left Futures here. I remember listening to Simon Hughes just 2 years ago excoriating Labour for losing its conscience and I couldn’t hlep from agreeing with him. Seeing him on Question Time a couple of months ago recently he looked very uncomfortable.

  2. Mike says:

    Charles Kennedy is MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, not Caithness and Sutherland.

  3. Guido Fawkes says:

    Filed under fiction.

  4. Kehaar says:

    >> Charles Kennedy’s own Scottish seat of Caithness and Sutherland has historically been a Labour seat, before it’s then MP, Robert Maclennan, defected […]

    Oh dear! How wrong can you be?

    i. Kennedy’s seat is the adjacent Ross, Skye and Lochaber.

    ii. There no longer is a seat called Caithness and Sutherland. It now includes Easter Ross, and is represented by another LibDem, John Thurso.

    iii. It’s true that Maclennan was a Labour MP between 1966-80, but he held the seat until 2001 when Thurso took over (continuing to be elected in 2005 and 2010), suggesting there ain’t a strong Labour tradition.

    iv. Although Maclennan had taken the seat from George Mackie (currently the oldest living former Liberal MP), Mackie had taken it in 1964 from the *Tory* (albeit, Independent at the time), David Robertson (who’d kicked-up a stink in Parliament about a local boy slapped about by the Police).

    vi. Robertson, in turn, succeeded another Tory in 1950, Eric Dower.

    vii. When the map was turning Red in 1945, Dower had unseated Archie Sinclair, the Air Minister in Churchill’s Government (but not a Cabinet minister, as often claimed). Sinclair ran again in 1950, when Robertson won.

    viii. Sinclair was the grandfather of the incumbent, i.e. John Thurso, and already was the fourth member of his family to represent Caithness for the Liberal tradition.

    It only really was with Maclennan’s victory in 1966 that Labour rose from third place. The constituent parts of the constituency prior to 1918 were traditionally Liberal, sometimes Tory. But, you’re right, Maclennan was leader of the SDP.

    I know this ‘cos I am in Caithness. Maybe any readers from Ullapool could give a low-down on their area’s voting record.

  5. Christopher Squire says:

    ‘ . . “the silliest of silly season stories”.’

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