Charles Kennedy has refused to rule out returning as Liberal Democrat leader at some point in the future.
Charles Kennedy stood down in January
Mr Kennedy, who quit as leader in January, was asked on BBC One's Question Time whether there was any chance he might lead the party again.
He replied: "Who knows? The one thing we can all be sure about in politics is you are as well to expect the unexpected."
But Mr Kennedy urged people not to misconstrue his remarks.
"I don't want a headline saying 'Kennedy suggests this or implies that'," he said.
In his first national television appearance since resigning as leader, the Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP also declined to answer whether he was now teetotal.
"My health is good and it's up to me to keep it that way," he said.
'Don't judge yet'
Mr Kennedy was also asked if he thought some Liberal Democrats had used his drinking to get rid of him as leader. He said he did not subscribe to that view at all.
And he defended his successor, Sir Menzies Campbell, whose leadership style has come under fire in recent weeks.
"For any new leader of any party at any given time it takes time if you are not in government to establish yourself," said Mr Kennedy, citing his own experience.
He said the impending departure of Tony Blair would change the "rules of engagement".
"I don't think people should be jumping to any premature conclusions at all this early in the Parliament because I think later in the Parliament things are going to look very different indeed."
Sir Menzies slapped down Lib Dem frontbencher Simon Hughes when he suggested his leadership would be judged after six months in the job.
But Mr Kennedy dismissed the "mumblings" against Sir Menzies as "in-house Westminster talk" and said he was not "down hearted" about his party's prospects.
Last week, Mr Kennedy said he regretted not being able to contest the leadership he had called, suggesting his failure to do so had left a question mark over Sir Menzies.
"I would have liked to contest the leadership election, because there is now a question mark in the air which members could have decided, had my name been on the ballot paper," he said.
Question Time is being screened at 2245 BST on BBC One.