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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 September 2007, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Welsh Lib Dems open leader fight
Mike German
Mike German has led his party in the assembly since 1999
Liberal Democrats have fired the starting gun on a contest to lead the party in the Welsh assembly.

The party's Welsh executive, meeting in Powys, decided any challenger to incumbent Mike German must declare their candidacy from 14 October.

If there is a contest among the party's six AMs, the results will be declared by the end of November.

Party rules state that a leadership contest must be held within 12 months of an assembly election.

Senior party figures met in Llandrindod Wells to set a timetable. BBC Wales understands that the executive intend to deal with any election as a "routine and neutral matter".

Eleanor Burnham AM
I think I've got as much to offer as anybody
Eleanor Burnham AM

The opening of nominations on 14 October coincides with the end of the party conference.

Mr German, who has led the party in Cardiff Bay since the assembly was founded in 1999, has been criticised for its election performance last May. Six Lib Dem AMs were elected for the third time in a row, leaving the party in fourth place.

He has also come under fire for the way in which coalition negotiations with other parties in Cardiff Bay were handled. Many had expected Lib Dems to resume their 2000-03 coalition with Labour, but instead Labour formed an assembly government with Plaid Cymru.

'New direction'

Montgomery AM Mick Bates has added his voice to those calling for a "new direction" for the party.

Mr Bates said it was time for the party to start talking early enough for the 2011 assembly election, but council elections in 2008 were equally important.

Ballot box
Anyone who wants to stand must declare from 14 October
Nominations will be open for two or three weeks
Result will be declared by the end of November

"Next year's local elections will therefore be a crucial test and if the party is to have a new leader, it will take time to bed in so as to make a change," said Mr Bates.

North Wales AM Eleanor Burnham said the fact that the Lib Dems failed to win more seats showed the party had failed to "communicate effectively".

Asked about her own leadership interests, she said: "I think I've got as much to offer as anybody.

"I'm a Welsh-speaking north Wales Liberal Democrat and as such I think we have a lot of work to do to assure the north Wales membership that we are doing what we can.

"I think there is still a certain gulf or perceived divide: the transport issue is only one that I keep harping on about.

"If I had been first minister when the assembly was first set up that would have been one of my first priorities: to join, physically as well as psychologically, north and south Wales."

Eleanor Burnham has "as much to offer as anyone"


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