Whatever else you might think of the gradually escalating crisis in Charles Kennedy's leadership of the Lib Dems - and I have some sympathy both with the views of Nosemonkey and Andrew Bartlett here - it's not been an edifying sight. It's made the parliamentary party, from which the vast majority of the complaints have come, look both petty, cowardly and ineffective: they've focussed on a personal problem, rather than a policy difference, lacked the courage to admit to their desire to remove their leader, and then taken months and months to do so. Perhaps Kennedy's drinking was crippling his ability to take the party beyond a somewhat fortuitious accumulation of protest votes, both against Labour and the Tories, but the fact remains that the Lib Dems had their best ever general election results, and the best results for the third party since Lloyd George was a major political player. I don't know, and I doubt anyone else really does either, especially considering the relative lack of genuine political talent in the party.
The problem for the Lib Dems is, I would guess, that unlike both the Tories and Labour, they haven't yet reached the critical mass where they could cock something up utterly and yet avoid obliteration as a national political force, so they constantly have to exist on their wits, terrified that the next mistake will not only scupper them temporarily, but just let them slip quietly back into the obscurity of the fifties, sixties and seventies. That would explain both the increasingly strident behaviour of the Orange Book (neo-)Liberals in terms of policy, and the desperation with which they've tried to get rid of Kennedy, since both are motivated by a frantic desire to ensure that the surely partly temporary gains of the past ten years or so are solidified, either by a commitment to a clear ideological programme or by recruiting a leader slightly more statesman-like. Still, desperation's never pretty, and this hasn't been. I suspect it'll turn out to have been a bad idea.