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With Charles Kennedy’s battle to remain as leader of the Lib Dems still on a knife-edge national bookmaker has put his toe in the water and opened a market on who will succeeded him – whenever that happens. The prices are being offered by William Hill and we expect them to be available online.
The Possible Runners:
Menzies Campbell (dark blue suit, white shirt, yellow check tie) A thoroughbred and like the last victor from the party’s Scottish stable which has provided winners for similar races before with Jo Grimond and David Steel. This would be his first time out. Has gravitas and has built up a lot of respect over his handling of Lib Dem policy on the war. The 4/5 price looks very good value.
Mark Oaten (dark blue suit, white shirt, yellow check tie) It would be first time out for him and was quick off the mark on Tuesday with an email to all Lib Dem members with an update of his home affair brief – a move widely seen as part of his leadership bid. Could he be trying too hard? The 6/4 does not look generous.
Simon Hughes (dark blue suit, white shirt, red check tie) Has been a runner before and had an overwhelming victory last time out on the same course in a national members’ ballot for the party presidency. But he was up against Lembit Opik not Campbell or Oaten. If it was down to him and Campbell at the final fence he might find it hard though the 11/2 looks reasonable value.
Clearly everything depends on whether Charles Kennedy withstands the current pressure and remains or whether he feels he has to step down. That looks a tight call, especially after Menzies Campbell refused to give his leader public backing last night or rule himself our of any contest.
A problem for all contenders is that there may be a penalty to be paid if any of them is seen to have played a part in the ousting of Kennedy – if that indeed is what happens.
It will be recalled that in 1990 when Margaret Thatcher was forced out the eventual replacement, John Major, had been away having his wisdom teeth removed and was not seen as part of the conspiracy.
If there is no early contest then Campbell’s position would become weaker and other challengers would come into the frame . My advice is to hold onto your money until we know whether Kennedy is actually going. If there is an early departure – back Menzies.
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