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Kennedy stays quiet over leadership

Feb 2 2006

 

Former leader of the Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy refused to be drawn on which of the contenders to succeed him would get his support.

Mr Kennedy spoke as he joined the campaign trail in Scotland in his first public outing since quitting the post amid party divisions over his drink problem.

He told journalists in Dunfermline: "I'm glad to say the answers to all these questions about leadership are not questions I need to address because members of the party will form their own conclusions.

"What I said when I resigned, however, was that the next leader of the party can count on my loyal support from the back-benches and that is what they will get and that is what the new leader will deserve."

Leadership contender Simon Hughes sought to restore momentum to his campaign with his first full newspaper interview since revelations of gay relationships.

The party president told London's Evening Standard he would be ready to work with either Labour or Conservatives in the event of a hung Parliament.

And he gave fuel to rumours that "Ming the merciless" had been involved in plots to unseat Kennedy by highlighting his swift announcement of his candidacy on the day of the former leader's resignation.

"As soon as Charles went, Ming declared within minutes and clearly there was a campaign ready to take off," said Mr Hughes.

"I had not anticipated Charles going, never wanted that to happen and had not made any preparations to stand. I had not been planning to stand against Charles."

He added: "Members have a clear choice. Do they have a more pro-active campaigning leadership that involves the whole party... or do you have the more traditional approach that Ming has represented?"

 

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