Richard North, 14/06/2004  

Charles Kennedy, as we know, is the leader of the Liberal-Democrat Party, which has performed well in the local elections, as it always does, and abysmally in the European ones. He is apparently delighted with both results, insisting that "This is proof positive of three-party politics in British mainstream political discourse." . Um, maybe. But then, Mr Kennedy said the same after the last local elections and the ones before that (or was that his hapless predecessor, whose name escapes me at the moment?)

Mr Kennedy is also calling for a cross-party debate on European matters. Mr Kennedy is always calling for cross-party debates on European matters when there is the least likelihood of anybody taking up his suggestion. When, however, people might engage in said debate he usually finds that he is otherwise engaged.

The best possible opportunity for that debate would have been during the European election campaign. Isn’t that what it should have been about? Not for Mr Kennedy, who memorably said that the European vote should be on Mr Blair’s involvement in the war in Iraq.

Alas, as Mr Kilroy-Silk, one of the successful UKIP candidates pointed out, the electorate appeared to be interested in the one party that spoke on European matters and spoke loud and clear.

It is our experience that when people do engage in a debate and a discussion on the EU, they tend to turn against it. The europhiles’ best defence is secrecy and obfuscation. What will Mr Kennedy’s excuse be when he is taken up on his suggestion?

In a separate development Patricia Hewitt, the singularly unsuccessful Trade and Industry Secretary has stated that the election results were more of a problem for the Conservatives than Labour. While the Conservatives do have a problem on their hands, one cannot really say that Labour politicians can rest on their laurels, having been somewhat notably trounced everywhere, except, maybe Scotland and Wales.

Just to show that she understand the democratic political process, Ms Hewitt added: "We have always known that there is a minority of the British people who are adamantly against the European Union and would like Britain to come out.” Indeed, there is. And it is growing. In fact, it is almost as big as the minority of the British people who adamantly vote Labour despite all indications that it is something of a wasted vote.

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