I thought I'd wander into the conference hall and check out Charles Kennedy's speech. As I pulled the door open the overwhelming smell of alcohol hit me, but I'm pleased to report that the stench of drink came from the hacks rather than the platform speaker! Kennedy has never been a great platform speaker but this year he seemed to be deliberately putting in a sleep inducing performance. I waited in vain for the mea culpa moment when he would apologise to his Lib Dem colleagues for the traumas he'd put them through but the moment never came. At least he can't be accused of trying to eclipse Ming.
It's quite a tricky problem for Lib Dems to decide if and when Kennedy should return to the front bench team. It's quite apparent that his popularity extends way beyond Lib Dem supporters and there will be a great temptation to bring him back sooner than might be appropriate given the circumstances.
I think Charles Kennedy might be rather enjoying his period out of the limelight. There's a lot to be said for a break from responsibility, especially if you have a new baby. He will know himself that there is no cure for his drink problem and that the longer he is free from day to day responsibilty the easier it will be to cope with it. Call me an old softie but I genuinely hope he conquers it.
I'm just off to the Observer fringe which is titled CONFRONTING CAMERON: HOW TO TACKLE THE NEW LOOK TORIES. Below the belt I would have thought.