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A few lines of charlie get up Lib Dem nose

Kate Moss, the model and, until Tuesday, the face of H&M, has been battling to save her career after being filmed snorting cocaine. Meanwhile, in Blackpool......

This is the picture that will shock a nation: Charles Kennedy, the carefree Liberal Democrat leader, caught on camera taking five lines of policy.

The images may be grainy but there is no doubt that Mr Kennedy, who has built his reputation as a wild child of British politics, will be severely embarrassed by the photo.

His spokesman stressed that it was only a few lines of policy and insisted his grasp of detail remains as hazy as ever. But those close to him say that while he still plays up to his fallible human image he has secretly been “doing policy” for some time.

During the election he drew admiration for his failure to articulate the party’s policy on local income tax. Mr Kennedy has admitted to “doing policy” during his days as Britain’s youngest MP back in the 1980s when everyone else was too, but has always said he did it only “to fit in”.

For some years this gifted artist seemed able to manage without policy. His opposition to the Iraq war showed him at the top of his game.

But allies say that after the disappointing election results he felt his muse was deserting him and turned to policy for inspiration. They argue that, still down from the result, he fell in with a bad crowd of economic libertines and policy nerds – known as the Orange Book boys – including Vince Cable, the Treasury spokesman often described as the Pete Doherty of Liberal Democracy. One source said: “These guys are up half the night, high on policy and raving about market reforms.”

Now the pictures, captured on a phone camera at the leader’s suite in the conference hotel, offer conclusive proof of his fall. Voters will be struck by the apparent nonchalance with which Mr Kennedy can be seen reading his briefing notes.

Shocked members reacted by rejecting two of his policies this week. Publicly they have stood by him, but some may want a new face for their product. One said: “Charles assured us he was his old self. In public he says he is a fully paid-up member of the human race. In private he is wading through policy review documents. We are all stunned.”

Friends are working hard to limit the damage. They say many of his policy fixes involved only ditching existing plans, which required no detailed work. They also say the policies inhaled – thought to include several lines on Royal Mail privatisation – were not the class-A measures they seemed. It is possible Mr Kennedy procured the entire postal policy by logging onto Google, tapping in “Liberal Democrat” and “policy” but without noticing that the instructions were in Japanese.

Sugar tongued

Sir Alan (call me Sir Alan) Sugar on Tuesday unveiled his new project. It is essentially an internet version of the old door-to-door selling scheme, modestly entitled the Sir Alan Sugar Enterprise Scheme.

Customers who buy a product from the scheme can then earn money back persuading others to do the same. But unlike a pyramid scheme, they have only to make one purchase – their own – so there is no financial risk.

By a happy coincidence Sir Alan (did we mention his knighthood?) even has the perfect product to launch the scheme, developed by the winner of his TV show The Apprentice, now project director of the – no sniggering – Amstrad health and beauty division. For just £129 punters will secure an anti-wrinkle kit, complete with a gadget for administering small electric shocks to your crow’s feet. Sir Alan swears by it. A full explanation of the scheme is on Amstrad’s website but below is an edited account. of how it works.

1) I am Sir Alan Sugar, knight of the realm and man of integrity.

2) You can now join my sales force at no cost to me.

3) You buy one of my products, priced to take account of the £15 I may have to pay you back if you persuade anyone else to buy one. Any products sold by your friends will net you a further £5 extra. This, too, is priced in.

4) You now have a vested interest in singing its praises, not that you need one because I am a man of integrity and knight of the realm.

5) For every £15 you earn, I will receive a guaranteed £114. For every £5 you earn through secondary sales I will receive another £109. The more you sell, the richer I get.

6) You can also buy products not made by me as long as the vendors have paid me to use my scheme.

7) There are NO LIMITS to how much I can earn. For you there is NO joining fee and NO initial investment (apart from the purchase of one product). For me there is NO need to hire a sales force or advertise.

8) Plus, Sases members can feel safe that the Sir Alan Sugar Enterprise Scheme (Sases) has been developed by Sir Alan Sugar (knight of the realm).

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