Ming to lead Lib Dems into next election

Sir Menzies Campbell today addressed criticisms of his leadership head on and vowed to take the Lib Dems into the next election and beyond.

The Lib Dem leader rejected claims he should be replaced with a younger leader before the next general election.

Speaking to BBC1’s Sunday AM, he said: “I have made it clear I will lead the party through this parliament, into the general election and into the parliament beyond.

“Nobody should be in any doubt about that, in television studios or elsewhere.”

In a separate interview with the Observer he warned delegates questioning his leadership in Brighton this week would risk the wrath of his wife Elspeth.

The Liberal Democrats are eager to portray themselves as a third party alternative in British politics, pointing to the “Conservative consensus” that exists between Labour and the Tories.

Sir Menzies said this morning the Lib Dems now hold a “distinctive position” and are the “real opposition” in politics.

This year’s conference will see the Lib Dems attempt to claim back the initiative on the environment, as well as presenting radical policies on taxation and immigration.

Nevertheless, the launch of this year’s conference has been marred by criticism from Lord Rogers, the party’s former leader in the House of Lords, and local activists.

Lord Rogers said he was “disappointed” with Sir Menzie’s leadership, which was “suffering a lack of energy and an absence of direction”.

Nick Clegg, Lib Dem home affairs spokesman and a viable contender for the leadership, this morning moved to defend Sir Menzies.

He told GMTV this morning: “I think people have got, frankly, short memories. I think they forget that 18 months ago or so the Liberal Democrats went though an extraordinarily turbulent period, very, very difficult.”

Mr Clegg warned it would be “foolish in the extreme” to being questioning Sir Menzie’s “excellent” performance.

However, a poll of 130 Lib Dem constituency association chairmen found a third are not convinced their leader is doing a good enough job.

A YouGov/Sunday Times poll also revealed today 45 per cent of voters think Sir Menzies is doing very or fairly badly as leader. Just one per cent said he was doing very well, with 23 per cent saying he was performing fairly well.