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 You are in: Special Report: 1999: 06/99: Lib Dem leadership  
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EDITIONS
Lib Dem leadership Tuesday, 22 June, 1999, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
Help wanted
The UK's leading centre party is looking for a new leader.

Applicants must have own seat in the House of Commons, a commitment to liberal politics, a flair for creating publicity and own driving licence.

Must also be able to cope with the possibility of long stints in the political wilderness.

The job also requires a thick skin as the leader can expect attacks from the press, Labour, the Tories, the nationalists - and some party members.

Duties

The successful applicant will be able to lead a party of about 90,000 members across the UK, as well as marshal the party's 46-strong parliamentary grouping at Westminster. They must be able to both oppose and support the government as necessary. Public profile an asset.

Salary

Just the basic MP's salary of 45,066 per annum. The successful applicant's income from politics will not increase despite promotion. Unlike the leader of the opposition the extra duties of party leader, alongside those of an ordinary backbencher, are not compensated for.

Financial management

Under rules drawn up by Parliament, the Lib Dem leader is given 1m of public money to enable the party to carry out its opposition duties.

Sense of occasion

Like the prime minister and the Tory leader the post requires the holder to attend official state occasions, such as the annual memorial service at the Cenotaph.

Perks

The Lib Dem leader receives no car or driver paid for from the public purse, unlike the leader of the Conservative Party and the prime minister. Luckily, Rover provides a car free of charge.

Public speaking

An ability to sell liberal policies to the voters and skill in pressing flesh are essential. As well as dealing with the press, each week during Prime Minister's Questions the leader will be able to ask Tony Blair two questions. They should be probing or complimentary as required.

Length of contract

Since the war most Liberal leaders have held their position for over six years. Some of the more successful, Paddy Ashdown being one, have held the post for over a decade. But tenure depends on success - one bad performance at election time and you can find your own way to the House of Lords, the EU or perhaps a seat on a Royal Commission.

Staff

Bring your own press officer, speech writer, personal organiser, researchers and driver.

Prospects

This prestigious post has the potential to offer the occupant a seat in a future coalition government with Labour, but this bonus is dependent on the generosity of a rival political organisation and cannot be guaranteed.

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