Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Charlie K's Txt Book Denial

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Charlie K's Txt Book Denial

Article excerpt

Political leadership is a stressful business, so it is no wonder that some turn to smoking. But cigarettes went out of fashion in British politics several decades ago, as Neil Kinnock's attempts to swap fags for a more respectable pipe in the 1980s showed. Since becoming Conservative leader in 2005, David Cameron has--like Barack Obama--never smoked in public. Periodically, however, rumours emerge of the odd puff in private. One such occasion is said to have been with the visiting Palestinian prime minister, a more habitual smoker. Salam Fayyad's last visit to the UK was in December 2008, so there remains no reason to doubt the PM's current insistence that he has indeed kicked the habit.

A rather more unashamed smoker, Charles Kennedy, has been in the spotlight recently as rumours circulated that he was considering joining Labour. While it's no secret that Kennedy is opposed to Nick Clegg's alliance with Cameron, talk of defection is wrong. This month, at a time the ex-Lib Dem leader was reported to have gone "off the radar" (when he was simply on holiday), Kennedy texted a friend, branding the story "100 per cent total bollocks from start to finish". Angry Lib Dem spinners are pointing the finger at Labour MPs, including the whip John Spellar, for spreading it around Westminster at the height of the silly season. But ominously for Labour as well as Clegg, Kennedy is instead believed to envisage a powerful future within a party that, supporters say, "has temporarily left Charles, rather than the other way around". …

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