Kennedy's regret at missing big speech

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Indy Politics

Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, has admitted that he made a mistake by failing to turn up for one of the most important announcements in the parliamentary year.

Mr Kennedy failed to take his place on the opposition benches when Chancellor Gordon Brown delivered a statement on whether sterling had passed the tests set by the Treasury as preconditions for joining the European single currency.

Interviewed for Radio 4's Desert Islands Discs, broadcast today, Mr Kennedy said: "I suppose it was a curious decision. It was a decision taken on the day, and that's just the decision I took. I suppose, looking back - and the benefit of hindsight is a great thing - if I'd imagined that it would have encouraged the kind of speculation and gossip that it did, then I would have taken the opposite decision and gone and sat in the chamber."

His absence set off rumours about his fondness for the occasional tipple, inspiring Iain Duncan Smith's swipe at him during a speech to the Tory party conference in Blackpool earlier this month. Mr Duncan Smith suggested that Mr Kennedy wanted tax rises on everything except wines and spirits.