It was Charles Kennedy's greatest political moment - but one he desperately tried to avoid. Never again did he address any public rally against the Iraq war. Photo of the anti-Iraq war march in London, 13th February 2003 by Ben Sutherland via Flickr (CC BY).
May Charles Kennedy rest in peace - but not glory!
2nd June 2015
Charles Kennedy may have struck a chord with voters as a man of the people, writes Donnachadh McCarthy. But in fact, he was very much a politician. He refused to speak out against the Iraq war, suppressed anti war activism, presided over serious political corruption, was supine in the face of corporate power, and laid the foundations for Nick Clegg's disastrous takeover.
His leadership inner circle was surrounded by a cabal of corporate lobbyists and tax haven reprobates, who repeatedly and often successfully suppressed the democratic decisions of conference.
I am saddened to see Charles Kennedy, the man, die so young and it is a tragic loss for his family and his young son.
But many Lib Dems will not like my views on Kennedy the politician, for whom I had nothing but a deep distaste, following my dealings with him when I was Deputy Chair of the Party in the lead up to the Iraq War.
I do not share many of the positive sentiments being expressed about his politics today by the political / media establishment.
His reputation for opposing the Iraq War is fraudulent in many respects. He did all in his power to stop me organising the participation of the Liberal Democrats in the major Peace March which made his name, which I and others successfully pulled off despite him.
After we achieved this, he then tried (and failed) to block all Lib Dem protests against the war, including by me personally. He then proceeded to place a formal motion of censure against me eight times to the Federal Executive, making my position as Deputy Chair all but impossible.
A steadfast refusal to oppose the war
Again and again despite many invitations from Stop The War, neither he nor any other party leader would speak at the subsequent anti-war marches and he refused point blank to utter the phrase "I oppose the war", until some time after the successful Brent bye-election after the outbreak of the war.
I ended up speaking at most of these as Deputy Chair of the Party, as I could get no one else to do so, including the enormous post invasion peace march which filled Hyde Park as far as the eye could see.
Kennedy's true position, no matter what many many political commentators will claim today, was not opposition to the war but to sit on the fence, until the UN Security Council voted on the issue and to then decide whether or not to support the war by which time of course it would have been too late to stop it.
His pathetic slogan was "we are not the anti-war party but the pro-UN party." They tried (and failed) to stop us using the clear anti-war "Lib Dems Say No" slogan but sought instead to use the fence-sitting phrase "Give Peace A Chance".
I was determined to brand Kennedy as opposed to the war, so that not only could get we mobilise the party to stop the war, but that he and the parliamentary party would be forced to vote against the war in Parliament.
To be fair to him, he courageously did in the end vote against war and it is to his eternal credit that he did so, even if he never campaigned to stop it.
Keeping the lid pressed firmly down on party corruption
He repeatedly resorted to legal threats against me for trying to clean up the corruption of Lib Dem lobbyists in the Lords and or trying to clean up party funding.
He lied to the party over Lib Dem peerages, when he promised to respect the elected nominees of the party to the Lords, appointing instead of those duly elected by the party, the usual gaggle of cronies and donors. He should have faced trial and prison for this theft and corruption of our upper house in parliament.
And of course it was this cabal which led him to dragging the party through the dirt by accepting (and refusing to return) the stolen millions in party donations from the off-shore tax haven crook and fraudster Michael Brown.
His leadership inner circle was surrounded by a cabal of corporate lobbyists and tax haven reprobates, who repeatedly and often successfully suppressed the democratic decisions of conference - indeed I remember Kennedy telling conference that no matter what it voted on re peer elections, he could do whatever he wanted. Kennedy facilitated the continued capture of the Liberal Democrats by The Prostitute State.
I was appalled when I found out later that a number of these lobbyists knew of Kennedy's tragic alcoholism when they funded and helped organise his leadership campaign.
Laying the foundations of Cleggism
In many ways he was a victim of this and was completely out of his depth and unsuited to be leader, despite the outward appearances to the public and this naturally in my view then exacerbated his affliction.
He laid the ground-work for the disaster of Cleggism, by promoting the Liberal Futurists and the Orange Bookers to the centre of his leadership team.
One thing Charles was right on was tactics in relation to joining the coalition with Cameron, when he refused to vote in favour of it and advocated instead remaining on the opposition benches and voting on a supply and demand basis.
A year after the Iraq War march, Kennedy's then Party President Navnit Dholakia demanded my resignation from the Federal Executive (of which I was the Deputy Chair) for telling conference that the leadership had refused point blank to implement the successful conference motion ending corporate lobbying corruption in the Lords among Lib Dem peers.
I had taken enough and resigned in anger. Kennedy resigned a year after the general election, due to his alcoholism, which had returned 62 Lib Dem MPs on a huge wave of support for the party after it had voted against the war in Parliament.
May he rest in peace.
Donnachadh McCarthy is a member of Occupy Democracy, co-organiser for Occupy Rupert Murdoch Week, a former Deputy Chair of the Liberal Democrats, and author of "The Prostitute State - How Britain's Democracy Has Been Bought". He can be reached via his website 3acorns. Follow on Facebook.
Petition: 'Save the Human Rights Act' (38 Degrees).
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