Poll finds support for Kennedy return

Poll finds more than half of public believe Charles Kennedy should lead Lib Dems
Poll finds more than half of public believe Charles Kennedy should lead Lib Dems

There is widespread support for Charles Kennedy to return as leader of the Liberal Democrats, according to a new poll.

An ICM survey for BBC Two's Newsnight finds 53 per cent of people believe the former leader is still the best man to run the party.

Only 26 per cent of the 1,002 respondents said the current leader, former Olympic runner and QC Menzies Campbell, was the best Lib Dem leader.

Mr Kennedy stepped down from the top job in January, after concerns about his drinking prompted 25 Lib Dem MPs to say they would quit if he did not resign.

Sir Menzies was elected after a leadership contest against environment spokesman Chris Huhne and party president Simon Hughes, but he has faced criticism about his performance in the Commons and his failure to boost the Lib Dems' poll ratings.

Since the leadership contest, the Liberal Democrats have remained on about 18 per cent of the vote in the opinion polls, although this did increase to 25 per cent in April - the best ranking since September.

Responding to the ICM survey last night - in which 19 per cent of respondents said they did not know who the best Lib Dem leader was - Sir Menzies said he would "not be judged by opinion polls after a few months".

"If I didn't think I had the energy, the values and the judgment to be the leader of the Liberal Democrats, I most certainly wouldn't have offered myself for the job," the 65-year-old told Newsnight.

Sir Menzies stressed that despite his age, the Liberal Democrats were the party for the young - they were the ones who campaigned against tuition fees, the war in Iraq and had focused on the environment long before the Conservatives or Labour.

"These are all issues that young people feel desperately sincerely and seriously about. Our party represents those values and as the leader of the party I am determined that these values will be given the widest possible exposure," he said.

Last month, Mr Kennedy refused to rule out standing for the Lib Dem leadership again, telling Question Time: "The one thing we can all be sure about in politics is you are as well to expect the unexpected."


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