Could the next Lib Dem leader be the previous one?

Could the next Lib Dem leader be the previous one?

    Will my 33/1 bet on Kennedy come good?

kennedy thin right strip.jpgOn March 29th, barely three weeks after Ming Campbell’s election as Lib Dem leader, a betting market opened on who will replace the 65 year old ex-Olympic sprinter.

One price stood out as I recorded at the time. “..For a real long-shot Charles Kennedy is priced at 100/1 – which looks like a great value bet. If he could show that he has really conquered his problems he would have a good chance with the membership ballot if he stood.”

Not for the first time since setting up PBC I did not act immediately on my own advice. By the time I got round to putting some money on the Kennedy price had tightened to 33/1 – which still seemed great value given the residual popularity that Kennedy enjoys with large sections of the membership.

If that market was available today then the Kennedy price would, undoubtedly be much much tighter. In fact, given the way that Lib Dem leadership elections have tended to favour the most well known, the old leader would surely be first or second favourite if he decided to run.

This was reinforced by an ICM poll for Newsnight three weeks ago. In a comparison with his predecessor, Charles Kennedy, Ming Campbell trailed by 26-53 when those surveyed were asked which they preferred.

A week after that came reports that Charles “wanted his old job back”. A “senior party source” was quoted by the News of the World as saying that Kennedy ” was “deadly serious” about making a challenge to Sir Menzies Campbell. The bid could come over the next few months if Sir Menzies does not perform well at the Liberal Democrat conference in September”.

So is this likely to happen. Could Charles Kennedy, who is still a young man, return to take over the leadership?

I think that there is a reasonable chance provided he can show emphaticially that he has conquered his drink problem. But unless something untoward happens to Ming I cannot see a leadership election this side of the General Election.

Although Ming’s popularity has been disappointing, to say the least, he is now much more sure-footed in the Commons and there is little doubt that the party machinery is performing much better with him in charge.

What would really reinforce the Campbell leadership would be a by-election victory in a Tory seat.

Mike Smithson

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