Azara Blog: Charles Kennedy at the abyss

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Date published: 2006/01/05

The BBC says:

Liberal Democrat Charles Kennedy has called a leadership contest after admitting he has been battling with a drink problem.

He said he was determined to carry on as leader but wanted to give party members the "final say".

Mr Kennedy - who has previously denied a drink problem - admitted seeking "professional help" to beat the bottle.

He has faced growing calls to quit as leader with 11 frontbenchers reportedly saying they had lost confidence in him.

Deputy leader Menzies Campbell, who had been favourite to take over the top job, said he would not run against Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy is believed to have called a press conference to admit his drink problem "within an hour" of being confronted with detailed allegations by reporters.

In a personal statement at Lib Dem HQ in Westminster, he said he had not had a drink for two months and did not intend to have another one.

He said: "Over the past 18 months I've been coming to terms with and seeking to cope with a drink problem, and I've come to learn through that process that a drink problem is a serious problem indeed.
The BBC has learnt that just under half of Mr Kennedy's front bench team has signed a letter saying they no longer have confidence in him.
Home Affairs Spokesman Mark Oaten - one of the men expected to challenge for the leadership - has confirmed to the BBC that he will not stand against Mr Kennedy.

He called on party members and MPs to get behind Mr Kennedy, saying they should "recognise and reward the courage he has shown".

So perhaps Kennedy will get the sympathy vote and survive to fight another day. But it's more likely there will be a real challenge and if so it's likely Kennedy will get the boot. So at the next election David Cameron might be the longest serving party leader. Bizarre indeed. (Of course Blair might find a convenient excuse to stay on. Like launch a war on Iran or whatever.)

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