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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 January 2006, 09:44 GMT
The contenders to replace Kennedy
Here are the potential runners and riders for the Liberal Democrat leadership election following the resignation of Charles Kennedy:


The deputy leader and foreign affairs spokesman, who is now acting party leader, was the first to confirm that he will stand in the leadership contest.

A former Olympic runner and eminent Scottish lawyer, he was recently given the all clear after treatment for cancer. He is the oldest candidate.

Was among those thought to be unhappy with Mr Kennedy's performance before his resignation, telling him he had to "raise his game".

But he was also among the first to pledge his loyalty when Mr Kennedy initially announced a contest and won some applause at the first hustings when he promised to welcome the former leader back to the party's front benches.

Outlining his approach to party activists, he said: "I want new thinking to liberate thousands of families locked in poverty. I want new thinking to reward environmentally friendly technology."


Party president Simon Hughes is embarking on his second leadership bid after being beaten by Mr Kennedy in the 1999 leadership ballot.

Mr Hughes also mounted a failed bid to be London mayor in 2004.

A left-leaning figure with populist instincts and fluent television manner who has a strong support base in the party, demonstrated by his election last year as president.

In one newspaper interview he denied he was gay but has now admitted to having both homosexual and heterosexual relationships in the past.

But he says he hopes his admission does not stop him doing a good job in public life.

On policy, he stressed the importance of freedom and fairness when he addressed party members and specifically earmarked taxation as a means by which the Lib Dems could redistribute wealth under his leadership.

"It is a disgrace that the poorest in our country pay a higher percentage of their income in tax than do the richest," he said.

"Liberal Democrats were right to fight the last election on a promise to spend more wisely and to tax more fairly and I want to stick to that."


Chris Huhne

As soon as he entered Parliament, Chris Huhne was pitched onto the Liberal Democrat front bench as economic spokesman.

But this new MP is no political novice - he won his parliamentary spurs in Brussels and Strasbourg as an MEP from 1999 to 2005.

And he has long been one of the party's key thinkers - in 2002 he took charge of revamping Lib Dem policies on public services.

Before politics, the MP worked as a City economist and as an economic journalist on The Guardian, The Independent and The Economist.

Mr Huhne, who has been an MP for just eight months, has called for a radical rise in eco-taxes to help the reduction of greenhouse gases.

He told party activists: "The sugar on the pill of higher eco-taxes must be lower personal taxes directed at the bottom end and fulfilling our fairness agenda."


Mark Oaten

Mr Oaten left the leadership race, citing lack of support among his parliamentary colleagues.

This was followed by newspaper allegations of an affair with a male prostitute and his resignation from the party's front bench.

One of a new breed of Lib Dem MPs with more right-wing instincts, he impressed many in the role of home affairs spokesman with his brand of "tough liberalism", mixing concern for civil liberties with recognition of the rights of crime victims.

As Mr Kennedy's leadership crisis deepened late last year, he sent an e-mail to party activists outlining his achievements in this role, which was seen as "pressing the green button" on his own bid for the top.

However, he was close to Mr Kennedy and within minutes of Mr Kennedy's first statement saying he had a drink problem, Mr Oaten ruled himself out of running against his leader.

But with Mr Kennedy not standing, the way for Mr Oaten to stand was clear - and in becoming the second confirmed candidate, he ensured there would be a leadership contest rather than a coronation of Sir Menzies Campbell.

He stood down a week later, claiming he had widespread support among Lib Dem members but not his fellow MPs.

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