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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 May 2006, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Sir Menzies defending his record
Sir Menzies Campbell
Lib Dem MPs discussed their leader's Commons performances
Sir Menzies Campbell has defended his leadership of the Liberal Democrats after his performance at Question Time was criticised.

Sir Menzies told BBC One's Politics Show he was "perfectly confident" of meeting the challenges of leadership.

His comments came after Simon Hughes, party president, suggested Sir Menzies needed more time to prove himself.

Mr Hughes told GMTV the time needed to assess his performance was after six months, not "a few weeks".

Sir Menzies said leadership involved "a variety of challenges including Prime Minister's Questions".

"If you'll forgive my immodesty I didn't become an Olympic athlete or a practising QC or win a seat from fourth place that hadn't been Liberal for 50 years without being able to meet challenges."

He added: "I am perfectly confident in my abilities to meet all of the challenges of leadership".

'Traumatic time'

On Wednesday, party MPs discussed Sir Menzies' Question Time performances after they came under fire.

But frontbencher Ed Davey said that the party's problems dated from Charles Kennedy's time as leader.

Mr Kennedy stepped down in January after many senior Lib Dem MPs voiced disquiet with his leadership despite him taking the party to their best general election showing for 80 years.

His resignation, after a long whispering campaign, came two days after he disclosed he was battling a drink problem.

Mr Davey said: "You have got to remember where we were three or four months ago. We have had a pretty traumatic time in the party.

We are seeing a leader who is decisive and confident and making the right decisions
Ed Davey

"For some of us it actually went back quite a few years. The party hadn't been managed as well as it should be," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The Liberal Democrat press office said it was looking at ways to improve Sir Menzies' performance at Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs). Possible changes might include to the sort of questions Sir Menzies asked.

And his chief of staff Norman Lamb has advised Sir Menzies, known as Ming, to "relax and be himself" in the "bear pit" of the Commons.

'Take stock'

Mr Hughes, who came third in the recent leadership contest, said the party should "take stock" of Sir Menzies' progress at the Lib Dem's annual September conference.

In a pre-recorded interview, he told GMTV's Sunday Programme said it was "fair comment" to suggest more effort should be put into improving the leader's performance during his weekly clashes with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"Ming is fully aware of that. He will now have time to be in Westminster and concentrating, but it's not to be underestimated the work that needed to be done behind the scenes for getting the policies sorted."

Mr Davey, the party's trade and industry spokesman, defended his leader's performance.

"Some of us are judging Ming now and we are seeing a leader who is decisive and confident and making the right decisions," he said.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Sir Menzies says he is "perfectly confident"



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