The 2001 General Election was a success for the Liberal Democrats as it made the most significant gains of any of the parties, and it was the first of Charles Kennedy’s outings as leader.
Leaders’ tours are a masterpiece of organisation and planning, and none more so that the event that was to be held in Ambleside, at St. Martin’s College, in Tim Farron’s constituency of Westmorland and Lonsdale.
Country lanes are difficult in Cornwall, but, unlike Cornwall, Cumbria’s have dry stone walls, so even the entrance to the college and the parking space needed to be measured to ensure there were no unforeseen problems with Charles’ arrival in Ambleside.
On cue, and surprisingly on time, the Leader’s bright orange Battle Bus arrived to the assembled throng of media, national and local, as well as the college’s Principal and our PPC, Tim Farron.
With all the ceremony of a party leader Charles stepped imperially from the coach, and with almost perfect timing, before he could utter a word, two RAF Tornados screamed overhead on one of their practice runs up the length of Lake Windermere, perfectly framed in the background againt the rolling Cumbrian mountains.
Charles, ever one for the perfect one liner said;
‘It’s very nice of you to arrange a fly past, but it really wasn’t necessary!’
There were knowing looks between our press team and the media, as scribbling began, and with a wink to the local Lib Dem team, Charles started his progress around the College.