In 2010, on this day Charles Kennedy led an exodus of anti-Coalition MPs out of the Liberal Democrat Party following the publication of economic data which vindicated his prediction that deep budget cuts would lead to a double dip recession in Great Britain.
Man of PrincipleUndoubtedly one of the most outstanding parliamentarians of his generation, Kennedy first became an MP at the age of just twenty-three, the youngest member in the House of Commons. And demonstrating an independent and inquiring mind which conceived a new Liberal consensus, he rose to the position of party leader in 1999, taking a firm stand against the Iraq War. Despite leading the Liberal Democrats to their largest ever share of the vote, he was disgraced by allegations of binge drinking and forced to resign in 2006.
"Don't expect me to f*#cking support you"Following the less than stellar outcome of the 2010 general election, the party decided to form a coalition with the Conservative Party, although Kennedy - now a backbencher - abstained on the original vote. Ironically, Kennedy had done more to prepare the party for Government than its pin-up boy scout leader, Nick Clegg, a private school educated political lightweight with a privileged social background. In fact, he was a Tory in all but name. And so when Clegg's political partner, Conservative Leader David Cameron offered his hand to the ex Lib Dem leader in the Commons, Kennedy did not rise from his seat, instead, he hissed: "Don't expect me to f*#cking support you". Kennedy later approached a Labour MP in the hope of trying to form a "pair" for some votes. "I don't want to vote for these b*stards," he explained to the rather surprised Labour backbencher.
"I don't want to vote for these b*stards,"The trouble for the Liberal Democrats was that Kennedy was absolutely right. Because on June 22nd, Chancelleor George Osbourne announced the harshest budget cuts in many years. The coalition was self-evidently a no-win situation for the Liberal Democrats who were simply providing cover for the Tories who could implement a cuts programme that produced a deep recession.
Kennedy would now reach out to the Labour Party to begin the formation of a Progressive Coalition which had been proposed by Gordon Brown in the immediate aftermath of the general election. This time however, it was an idea whose time had come around because it was driven by principle and not expediency.