LibLink: Sir Menzies Campbell: Commons reform is fitting tribute to Kennedy

Sir Menzies Campbell has written an article for the Sunday Times in which he argues that the House of Commons should be reformed to reflect Charles Kennedy’s style of politics.

It is hard to match the extraordinary and justified tributes made this week on the too-early death of Charles Kennedy. But perhaps the most fitting thing to do now would be to see what can be learnt from his style of politics in order to create a more appreciative understanding between politicians and the people they represent.

He talked about Charles’ ability to communicate, his sense of humour which was mischievous but never cruel and his tolerance and respect for others.

He went on to outline the specific reforms that could be enacted in the Commons to make it reflect those values:

We could begin by abolishing the so-called “open questions”, which allow anyone who catches the eye of the speaker to ask the prime minister anything, and often requires him or her to answer not with information but with dismissal. Kennedy would approve of that reform. Before the televising of the House of Commons, the only way to know what was happening other than who was speaking at any one time was by going to the chamber. Now MPs can sit in their offices and watch it all. There’s surely a duty on the chief whip of all parties to ensure that their members spend sufficient time in the chamber to fulfil their responsibility to hold the government to account. Skilful orators after the style of Kennedy would prosper.

He then looked at the adversarial style and what could be done about that – and then at what this might mean for the party:

No one is suggesting that the Commons should adopt the artificial politeness of the US Congress, but there must surely be a distinction between vigour and vituperation. Commentators and MPs alike queued up to praise the Kennedy style and talked of his legacy. How about his legacy being recorded not in portrait or sculpture but in a chamber that did more than acknowledge his values but conducted itself in accordance with them.

For the Lib Dems striving to recover from their heavy defeat, the lessons are clear. The principles of liberal democracy, which were embodied in all that Kennedy said or did, are as essential now as they have ever been. The new leader would do well to read all the speeches made by Kennedy during his period of leadership. When in doubt he went back to principle, and the Lib Dems should do so now.

You can read the whole article here (£).

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3 Comments

  • Let’s set up a Charles Kennedy Foundation to help bring this about.

  • Jayne Mansfield 8th Jun '15 - 8:13am

    I do worry that so many of the tributes centre on Charles Kennedy’s ‘style’ of politics, his affability, his good manners etc., and not on something that I feel was even more important to previous supporters of the party such as myself, his judgement. It was his political judgment that made me want to vote for him and his party.

    The best tribute I have read came from Ian Hislop.

  • John Roffey 8th Jun '15 - 10:14am

    Dismantling our democracy?

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