For reasons to do with the fact that we spend a week each year in the Highlands, and that Charles Kennedy is a good bloke, we saw a bit of him and his wife Sarah shortly before the election campaign proper kicked off.
Now that the Lib Dem leadership has leapt into bed with a right-wing Tory Party, it surprises me not one bit that Charles has come out against the move. At the time of our holiday, if my life had depended on it and I was forced to place a bet, I would have probably said the Tories were on for a majority. I think Charles felt the same, though neither of us, perhaps out of reverse wishful thinking, expressed our fears outright.
It was Sarah, listening to our arguments about David Cameron’s numerous strategic failings, and making her own observations about what people felt about the Tories, who seemed most convinced they could be stopped from winning.
Having been wrestling with myself somewhat about the extent to which I should get involved in the campaign, it was in part her conviction on the matter that decided me to scrap pretty much all other plans for the next few weeks, head home and go close to full time helping GB, Peter M, Douglas Alexander etc.
What she was saying was in keeping with what I had been saying here for a long time – that the Tories think they can cruise to an easy win, that they have not done the hard work we did in changing our Party, that parts of the country will have no truck with them whatever, that the posh boy thing is a problem, that Osborne is a problem, that inexperience is a problem, that they have some real off the wall loons in their ranks, that people will ultimately resent the media and financial backing, and so on and so on. She was right. They went from a big lead at the start of the campaign to a few nervous days at the end thinking they might not get into power at all.
The fact that Cameron is now PM means that despite the best efforts of some, eg Lord Ashcroft and blogger Tim Montgomerie, the inquest into their hopeless campaign, which saw that huge poll lead dwindle to a hung Parliament, is not taking place.
But the more Cameron says, as he said again in his cuddly little interview with Andrew Marr this morning, that his arrangement with the Clegg wing of the Lib Dems will last, the less convinced I am that he is right.
As so often, the media is missing the pulse of public opinion. A major company which tracks its own reputation via focus groups sent me last week’s report yesterday. They always start with a general discussion. And the discussion was of the Cameron-Clegg partnership. The verbatims, especially from Tory and Lib Dem voters, were harsh. Extremely so.
So Cameron and Clegg continue to bathe in the warm praise of those (large) parts of the media that were desperate to see the back of us and so are now bumming up the new boys like there’s no tomorrow.
But Charlie Kennedy speaks for a lot of Lib Dems in suggesting this marriage of convenience goes against everything every Lib Dem leader since Jo Grimond has stood for in working for a realignment of the left.
And once Parliament is back, just wait for the noise of the Tories once they spot a bit too much Cleggery on Europe, let alone this 55 per cent unconstitutional stitch up.
It is all so nice and easy when Marr is asking Cameron whether he and Samantha will have dinner parties with Nick and Miriam. But the tough questions will come before too long, and I am not sure the Lib Dems will hold on as tight and as hard as Dave might think. Nor am I so sure he will control his own side as easily as he might like to.
Not only Charles, but David Steel, Paddy Ashdown, Ming Campbell were all to greater not lesser degrees wanting Clegg to do more to steer his party left not right. So was Vince Cable. I hope someone has a record of his calls to GB. Indeed, I hope someone has a record of Clegg’s.
Charles is the first to speak out but he won’t be the last. Meanwhile Labour should use the leadership campaign to have a serious and positive debate about past, present and above all future. There will be a proper contest between several perfectly strong candidates, all of whom can offer something different so that a real direction for the future can be agreed.
It won’t be easy for the brothers Miliband, let alone their Mum, but they are mature enough to ensure hopefully that blood can stay thicker than water whilst also projecting themselves in different ways to the public.
I would advise Ed against doing too much of the bashing of the past which marked out his launch and today’s interview. Of course there has to be an assessment of why we lost support. But it is my strongly held view, as I have said here many times before, that one of the reasons our support fell is that we did not defend the record over 13 years well enough, and we allowed the Tory and media negativity about this wonderful country, and the many improvements, to take hold.
Being overly and needlessly critical of the past is not the best way to start an argument about the future. And don’t forget that whilst Cameron may be PM, he is only there because Clegg helped him to get there. This is a progressive country, which is why the Milibands and whoever else joins them can go into this debate in a positive, forward-looking, agenda-setting way.
* Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.