Kennedy refuses to rule out leadership return

Charles Kennedy refuses to rule out standing for the Lib Dem leadership again
Charles Kennedy refuses to rule out standing for the Lib Dem leadership again

Charles Kennedy has refused to rule out the possibility of returning to lead the Liberal Democrats at some time in the future.

The Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP was forced to resign in January after concerns about his drinking, but his successor, Menzies Campbell, has struggled to make an impression.

Asked whether he would consider standing for the leadership again, Mr Kennedy told Question Time last night: "Who knows? The one thing we can all be sure about in politics is you are as well to expect the unexpected."

In a an interview with a regional television station, recorded last week but revealed last night, Mr Kennedy also indicated he regretted not standing against Sir Menzies in the leadership contest, suggesting he may have had the support to win again.

"I would have liked to contest the leadership election, because there is now a question mark in the air which members could have decided, had my name been on the ballot paper," he told the BBC's south-west service.

His comments are unlikely to be welcomed by Sir Menzies, who has come under fire for his lacklustre performance at prime minister's question time - this week, he had to fight to speak above calls of "bring Kennedy back" from some opposition MPs.

An ICM poll for The Guardian earlier this week revealed some improvement in the Lib Dems' fortunes - they climbed one point on last month to 21 per cent of public support - although they are still far behind the other two main parties.

Speaking to the BBC, however, Mr Kennedy insisted he supported the new party leader, saying he offered him "face-to-face advice" and stressing they spoke "as friends and colleagues as we have always done".

And last night he argued that for "any new leader, of any party, at any given time, it takes time if you are not in government, it takes time to establish yourself".

He added: "[Conservative leader] David Cameron is discovering this, my successor is discovering this, I went through exactly the same experience."

Pressed on whether some of his colleagues had latched on to his alcoholism to get him to quit as Lib Dem leader, Mr Kennedy said: "I don't subscribe to that at all."

And questioned whether he was now teetotal, he said only: "My health is good and it is up to me to keep it that way."


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