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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 September 2005, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Kennedy defends leadership style
Charles Kennedy
Kennedy said he had made tough decisions over Iraq
Charles Kennedy has defended his style of leadership - insisting he is capable of making tough decisions.

The Lib Dem leader acknowledged that he had adopted a more consensual style of leadership when he took the top job - because that is what the party wanted.

But he said his colleagues trusted him more because he "involves people before decisions are arrived at".

At the party's conference in Blackpool, he said his stance against the Iraq war had proved his leadership credentials.

Mr Kennedy was speaking out on BBC Radio 4's Today programme to counter claims that he was more a chairman than leader of his party.

'United front'

Earlier this week one activist said he had been forced to "waste time" defending Mr Kennedy on the doorstep during the general election campaign.

But Mr Kennedy argued that under his stewardship, the Lib Dems had been "the most united party" in Parliament.

Let's up our game as a party and let's get ourselves into national power
Charles Kennedy

"Why? Because colleagues trust their leader because their leader adopts a style which involves people before decisions are arrived at," he said.

"The party knows it can do the same, which is why when I'm saying to them: 'Now look, we've got to think forward over the next four or five years', they trust me to do that.

"And I don't think that the people feel with me that there some great hidden plot about the future of the party. There is one plot and one plot only. Let's up our game as a party and let's get ourselves into national power."

'Force for good'

Mr Kennedy said he had never had thoughts about relinquishing the leadership of the party.

It would only be time to go if he did not feel he had something fresh to contribute, he said.

"I've never had second thoughts because I think this is a bigger moment of opportunity for me personally and for Liberal Democrats as a force for good in British politics and British society than has ever been the case," he said.

"I haven't spent 25 years at the coal face of Parliament to start squandering that opportunity now having worked so hard to help create it."

Mr Kennedy's frontbench colleagues rallied round him at the party's morning press conference.

'Handbag'

Home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said he liked Mr Kennedy's "less macho" style of leadership and praised his decisiveness.

Environment spokesman Norman Baker said: "We don't want a Mrs Thatcher-type figure hitting us with a handbag and telling us what to do."

Campaigns chief Lord Razzall said Mr Kennedy "didn't actually think it was a criticism to say you are more of a chairman than a leader".

"He prides himself on his more consensual style of leadership.

"Had he known how this was going to be written up he might have answered the question differently and said he eats babies for breakfast."

The three front benchcers denied any knowledge of a reported pact between Mr Kennedy and party chaiman Simon Hughes, which would see Mr Hughes not challenging for the post of leader.

"Charles hasn't been to Granita lately," said Lord Razzall, referring to the London restaurant reported to be the scene of a leadership pact between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Charles Kennedy defends his role as party leader



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