Leadership cloud hangs over Lib Dem conference

Question-marks over Sir Menzies Campbell’s leadership of the Liberal Democrats are threatening to dominate the party’s conference in Brighton.

Its annual autumn conference gets underway today but Sir Menzies, whose tenure has seen the Liberal Democrats slip in the opinion polls to the mid-teens, has had to restate his desire to remain at the top to questioning journalists.

“I’ll lead the party through this parliament, through the general election and into the next parliament,” he has repeatedly said.

His comments echo those of ousted leader Charles Kennedy in the 2005 Blackpool conference before he was driven to the backbenches the following new year, however.

Analysts say many in the party fear Sir Menzies is too old when compared with his younger counterparts in the Labour and Conservative parties.

While the speculation continues behind closed doors, the 66-year-old is concentrating on driving through policy changes which he says will “form the foundation of our election platform”.

“This week we will take decisions on a wide range of policy matters: tax, the environment, poverty, and many others,” he said.

“They are a clear demonstration of our determination to change British politics and break with the conservative consensus that we have witnessed in recent years.”

Among the policy developments being put to the conference this week are a 4p cut in the income tax base rate, a written UK constitution and the introduction of a single working age benefit.