Campbell powers to victory

SIR Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrats' authoritative and widely respected foreign affairs spokesman, has been elected the party's leader to succeed Charles Kennedy, who quit early in the New Year after admitting he was an alcoholic.

SIR Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrats' authoritative and widely respected foreign affairs spokesman, has been elected the party's leader to succeed Charles Kennedy, who quit early in the New Year after admitting he was an alcoholic.

Popularly known as Ming, it took two ballots under the Lib Dems' transferable vote system of election for him to emerge ahead of the largely unknown Chris Huhne, who has only been an MP for 10 months.

The third candidate was Simon Hughes, the party's president, who lost in the previous election to Mr Kennedy following the resignation of Paddy Ashdown.

A total of 52,036 Lib Dem members voted in the election, a turnout of 72%. The first round result was:


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Sir Menzies Campbell 23,264, Chris Huhne 16,691, Simon Hughes 12,081.

After the elimination of Mr Hughes, the votes of his supporters who expressed a second preference making the final result: Campbell 29,697, Huhne 21,628.

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After the result was announced, Sir Menzies said: “The challenge, as already been said, is to lead this party back towards government at the next general election.” The Dunfermline by-election victory had not only shocked Labour but “burst the bubble of Mr Cameron's Conservatives”.

Sir Menzies added: “I am going to modernise our party so as to make a reality of three party politics in Britain. And I'm going to show that the Liberal Democrats are the party of ideas and innovation in Britain.

“I'm going to make the Liberal Democrats the party of democratic revolution combating the unelected quango state, the unaccountable power of central government and the secrecy that still pervades far too much of Britain.

“I'm going to make the Liberal Democrats the party that pledges to take power from Westminster and Whitehall and give it back to men and women in their own communities so they can determine how their schools, hospitals, police and transport are to be run.”

Commenting on the outcome, Euro MP Andrew Duff, the Lib Dems' senior politician in the East of England, said: “Ming Campbell's victory is well-deserved. I have been happy to support him throughout the contest. His experience and authority will unite the party in the country and his leadership in Parliament promises to be both incisive and distinguished.

”The leadership campaign has been very impressive. In particular, the fight has enabled the party to develop its thinking on decentralisation and environmental policy. With Ming Campbell as leader, the Lib Dems will go forward with confidence to consolidate our reputation and performance as Britain¹s European party.

“If he shakes us up, it won't be a bad thing. I know the party in the eastern counties will be very supportive.”

However, Sir Ming's election has not been greeted with universal joy and boookmaker William Hill immediately lengthened the odds on an already improbable Lib Dem victory at the General Election.

They have lengthened from 66/1 to 80/1 the odds of the Liberal Democrats becoming the largest single party at Westminster in the wake of this result. They also now make the Liberal Democrats 2/5 to get fewer seats at the next election.

Editorial comment: page 24

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