The ungracious and shameful manner in which Charles Kennedy’s alcoholism was handled by his party – the same party, lest we forget, for which he had grabbed the largest number of seats since its previous incarnation eighty years previously – was a sober lesson in Westminster morals at their most ruthless. Stabbed in the back by colleagues with unrealisable ambitions to better what Kennedy had achieved, he was replaced by Sir Menzies (AKA ‘Ming the Merciless’) Campbell, whose leadership was such a roaring success it lasted barely a year. And then came Clegg. Alas, poor Nick, we knew him well. Gordon Brown agreed with him, and so did David Cameron.

It was only when the Con-Dem Coalition was ripped apart by cynically effective Tory electioneering in 2015 that the shackles the Lib Dems placed on the most damaging Conservative policies became apparent; not that the electorate recognised this, taking out their frustrations with austerity politics on the junior partners and decimating their numbers, forcing Nick Clegg to fall on his leadership sword as a consequence. A party reduced to single figures had little in the way of choice when it came to a successor and in stepped Tim Farron. Yes, Tim Farron; remember him?

Tim Farron was the fish finger party leader whose General Election campaign barely a month ago was dogged by persistent questions over his faith and its official position on gay sex (presumably not a missionary one). When he quit a couple of weeks ago, Farron cited his God-bothering as one of the main reasons for resigning; he apparently regarded it as an impossibility to lead his party and ‘live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching’. Why run in the first place then, vicar?

Yes, some of the grillings he received on account of his religious beliefs were unfair; as I said at the time, would he have been similarly pursued on this one question had he been a Muslim MP rather than a Christian one? But Farron had presented the media with such an open goal that it merely highlighted his evident unsuitability for leading a political party; in recent years, his efforts at leadership have only been matched by some of the clowns in the UKIP hot-seat.

Why on earth Farron chose to compete in the last General Election campaign when he’d obviously decided to quit at the soonest available moment says everything about the diminished aspirations of the Lib Dems. That his resignation was announced on a day when the country was still coming to terms with the Grenfell Tower disaster underlines the unfortunate and inopportune timing where his party is concerned of late. Not to worry, though; the Lib Dems have their very own Jezza! Yes, Old Mother Cable is back, and it looks as if the man who sold the Royal Mail down the river during his stint as Coalition Business Secretary is poised to step into the breach as saviour!

The 74-year-old Westminster veteran was missing in action for two years, but returned to Parliament three weeks ago and now stands to lead his party out of the wilderness. Even with an improved showing at this year’s General Election, the Lib Dems still have a paucity of talent to draw upon when it comes to leadership, and another Lib Dem who has returned to Parliament after two years’ absence, Ed Davey, has ruled himself out of standing by citing the tried and trusted ‘I want to spend more time with my family’ excuse; why become an MP again if that’s such a prominent concern? Other potential contenders – Norman Lamb and Jo Swinson (another returnee) – have also pulled out, which leaves Cable with a virtually unchallenged path to the crown of thorns that is being Lib Dem leader.

Sir Vince has already stated his intention to push for a second EU Referendum, which may win him a few votes with Remainers in permanent denial, though I suspect the rest of the country will see it as precisely what it is – a desperate clutch at desperate straws by a desperate party. It’s not as though the Lib Dems have anything else to clutch at now, yet their approach to the Brexit conundrum didn’t exactly set the electorate alight during the General Election, anyway; they only won 12 seats, after all. And the fact they’re poised to place their future in the hands of a man who someone once compared to Mr Barrowclough from ‘Porridge’ just about sums up their utter irrelevance to the changed political landscape of 2017.


The news that six people – three of them former coppers – will be charged with offences relating to the Hillsborough tragedy of 1989 flies in the face of the usual routine where ex-police officers have bent the rules to cover their own backs. Early retirement is the standard reward as the offenders are pensioned off and stick to their stories. Yes, it may be a belated announcement that the Crown Prosecution Service have charged six involved on the day, but it’s about bloody time. One of the six is Sir Norman Bettison, a Chief Inspector with the South Yorkshire Police in 1989, and a man who competed with Kelvin McKenzie to propagate the most despicable myths re the behaviour of the fans that day. He is being charged with four offences of misconduct in public office.

Another senior officer at the time, David Duckenfield, is a former Chief Superintendent who was match commander on the fatal day in question; he was the man who gave the order for the exit gate to be opened and therefore allowed the rush of Liverpool fans into the central pens of the terraces behind the goals that provoked the crush that resulted in 95 deaths; he is being charged with manslaughter by gross negligence.

As happened at Orgreave during the Miners’ Strike five years earlier, South Yorkshire Police looked after their own at the expense of those who suffered as a consequence of their actions at Hillsborough; it is only due to the remarkable resilience and tenacity of the bereaved families that today’s announcement by the CPS has come to pass. Showing the same dogged determination as those who hunted down Nazi War Criminals in the 50s and 60s, their tireless efforts not only led to the Operation Resolve investigation, but they may now finally see someone held accountable in a court of law. This is long overdue, and we can only hope justice will eventually be done. If elderly ‘sex offenders’ can be pursued by the police for offences committed half-a-century ago, why can’t elderly policemen be pursued likewise?

© The Editor


Tim Farron or a fish finger? According to various online polls, most reckon the latter would make a more effective leader of the Liberal Democrats. Okay, so it’s one of those Twitter campaigns that serve as a silly distraction from doom ‘n’ gloom, and to give Farron credit he has entered into the spirit of the joke rather than pretending he knows nothing about it. Anyway, a fish finger couldn’t have been elected Lib Dem leader after the last General Election on account of just eight remaining MPs to choose from (with Nick Clegg excluded from the list), none of whom owed their existence to Captain Birdseye.

Farron was a regular on ‘Question Time’ prior to his leadership elevation, so was a relatively familiar face; but the dearth of names to select as Clegg’s successor meant it was inevitable whoever got the gig was destined to have their election downgraded. In some respects, Farron has made a shrewd move in allying himself and his party with the anti-Brexit brigade; after being blamed for the worst crimes of the Coalition, the Lib Dems needed a new focus and seized upon the Referendum result as a cause. It could well have won them recruits too young to recall their U-turn on tuition fees as well as disillusioned Remainers, and with Labour’s stance on the subject still somewhat murky, Farron has promoted the Lib Dems as a party whose position on the issue that will undoubtedly dominate this General Election is crystal clear.

Not that Brexit is the issue Tim Farron has been quizzed on much so far when cornered by interviewers. They want to know if he thinks gay sex is a sin. He’s a Christian, you see, so surely an act of passion between two chaps must offend his faith, no? I wonder if anyone has dared to put the same question to, say, Sadiq Khan. The Mayor of London is a Muslim, after all, and the Koran apparently isn’t mad keen on that sort of intimacy. Mind you, is any religious manual penned thousands of years ago mad keen on it? The core values of any religion seem similar on paper, but the ambiguity of the text in all of them can be open to interpretation and seized upon by both advocates and opponents as to why living one’s life by its doctrines is either a good or bad idea.

There can be ‘selective faith’, of course, which essentially means a pick ‘n’ mix of all the bits in one’s chosen Holy Book which appeal and conveniently disregarding the bits you don’t like. I suppose it makes sense to a degree if you’re determined to follow a faith and the archaic nature of some of its specifications makes them no longer relevant. Islamic Fundamentalists tend to do this the wrong way round by focusing on all the bits most would regard as utterly irrelevant to the world after around the eighteenth century Enlightenment. Similarly, Christian Fundamentalists in the American Bible Belt have a habit of honing in on all those bits as well. But that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone who is a Muslim or a Christian follows suit.

Our Glorious Leader herself is, as we all know, the daughter of a vicar and she remains a practising Christian; will the gay sex question be put to her during the campaign? Robert Peston hinted as much when appearing on this week’s ‘Have I Got News for You’, so we shall see. That Farron has been singled out more than other prominent God-botherers for his views on personal morality seems strange; his voting record on equality legislation is largely commendable, more so than many of his fellow Parliamentarians who have been spared the kind of grilling Farron has received of late. Then again, I suppose the media needs an angle, and today’s media-savvy politicians should at least anticipate it.

Thankfully, none in 2017 (bar perhaps the worst fruitcake in the UKIP bakery) would come out with a comment akin to the one uttered by the late Tory buffoon Sir Gerald Nabarro on ‘Any Questions’ way back in 1963 – ‘How would you feel if your daughter wanted to marry a big buck nigger with the prospect of coffee-coloured grandchildren?’ Even at the time, the comment was deemed unpleasant enough to be edited out of the programme’s repeat broadcast a few days later, though it didn’t damage Nabarro’s career thereafter as it would totally destroy it today.

However, the voluntary imposition of a morality consensus upon all public figures isn’t necessarily a hallmark of progress in that some may well say one thing in public and another in private. I’ve no idea if Tim Farron regards gay sex as abhorrent when he ponders on the topic behind closed doors or if he wrestles with his Christian conscience over the issue; but the likelihood that some have both a public and a private opinion on such a subject is, I would imagine, fairly high. In a way, I would rather honesty came into it a little more, though the awareness of how the wrong kind of honesty can wreck a career today no doubt limits a public figure’s ability to express it.

Actually, an out-and-out proud bigot or racist is more honest than someone who masks their prejudices in the mores of the moment – the kind of PC preacher who ticks all the right minority boxes until their daughter engages in the scenario clumsily referred to by Sir Gerald Nabarro over fifty years ago. The dishonesty of those who don’t necessarily practice in private what they preach in public is worse. The reluctance to question and condemn certain cultural differences – FGM being an extreme example and one with an appalling lack of criminal convictions for its practitioners – isn’t helping anyone, let alone the concept of a harmonious society that lives by certain shared values.

For all the rights and wrongs of the Raj, the British in India did at least outlaw traditions like widows being burned alive on their dead husband’s funeral pyres; and to avoid ‘sensitive issues’ today because they’re exclusive to minorities whilst simultaneously thinking it okay to constantly challenge Tim Farron on one topic because he’s a white heterosexual Brit following what David Cameron reminded us was ‘the national faith’ stinks of double standards.

© The Editor