Kennedy admits drink problem

Charles Kennedy tonight dared his MPs to challenge him a leadership contest after he admitted having had a drink problem for the past 18 months.

By Graham Dines

Political Editor

CHARLES Kennedy tonight dared his MPs to challenge him a leadership contest after he admitted having had a drink problem for the past 18 months.

The Liberal Democrat leader, facing the media in a hastily arranged conference in central London, said he had wanted to deal with the matter privately, but added: “My admission is a personal relief.”

Insisting he had not had a drink for two months, Mr Kennedy said talk of his problem, had caused uncertainty in the party.

Therefore he was calling for a vote of all party members to be set in motion - an echo of John Major's “put up or shut up” challenge to the Tories in 1995. The then Prime Minister faced a showdown with Welsh Secretary John Redwood - whether there is a Redwood equivalent in the Lib Dems remains to be seen.

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Mr Kennedy was due to make a high profile visit to Ipswich in the next few weeks to head the Lib Dems' assault in the borough council elections.