The nurses and midwives at St Thomas’s Hospital this week faced a rewarding task: to bring Donald James Kennedy into the world. They could have been as slapdash as they had liked, even pulled the poor chap out by the ears — knowing full well that nothing would have prevented his father bounding down the hospital steps and praising the care and dedication of NHS staff. Never mind Charles Kennedy’s boast that he was going to put parenthood before politics; only the extremely naive would think the Liberal Democrat leader incapable of appreciating the electoral advantages of becoming a father during a general election campaign.
Our complaint is not that the Kennedys deliberately timed the birth of their first child for electoral purposes. So what if they did? The country needs more babies; not least to grow up, pay taxes and help meet the government’s rapidly growing pension liabilities. In fact, we would argue that the more paternity leave Charles Kennedy takes, the better. It will prevent him from treating us all as though we were young Donald: i.e., born yesterday.
The Liberal Democrats have been taken more seriously in this election than in any within living memory. It is widely predicted that the party will not just damage Labour but will pick up votes from middle-class Tories attracted by the Lib Dems’ promise to abolish tuition fees and to offer free ‘personal care’ to the elderly. While there is no danger of Charles Kennedy becoming prime minister, there is a risk — as he told this magazine last month — that he would go into coalition with Labour in the event of a hung Parliament. That must now be counted a real possibility, and grounds for assessing what he says very carefully.