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Last Updated: Monday, 31 July 2006, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Kennedy returns to Lib Dem stage
Charles Kennedy MP
Mr Kennedy will speak at the party's Brighton conference
Ex-leader Charles Kennedy says he is looking forward to delivering one of the key speeches at the Liberal Democrat annual conference.

News of the speech, and recent poor opinion poll ratings, have led to talk Mr Kennedy may want to challenge his successor Sir Menzies Campbell.

On Sunday Mr Kennedy said the newspaper reports of him plotting was "fanciful".

But asked in The Independent if he may yet be leader again, he says: "Who knows what the future holds?"

In an e-mailed question and answer session with Independent readers Mr Kennedy adds: "Unpredictability is a central feature of political life."

Asked if he would like the chance to address the party's conference in September, Mr Kennedy says: "I am looking forward to giving a platform address at the party conference... I will be working on my speech during the summer recess."

Fairness

He also faces questions about how he feels "about the fact that your commitment to a 50p income tax band has been scrapped".

Mr Kennedy replies that "the key issue for me is the commitment to fairness and redistribution in tax policy overall" before warning "the policy is still to be decided at the conference".

It's up to me to maintain my good health - which I am - and in so doing I'm entitled to privacy
Charles Kennedy
Ex-Lib Dem leader

Mr Kennedy stepped down in January after a rebellion by many of his senior ministerial team and after admitting he had been battling a drink problem.

He is also asked when he last had an alcoholic drink.

He answers: "I made clear when I stepped down that I was in good health then and that remains the case. It's up to me to maintain my good health - which I am - and in so doing I'm entitled to privacy.

"So I see no need to go further than that save to say that my wife's support in all things is outstanding."

Mr Kennedy, due to front a 30 minute Channel 4 programme on politics on Friday, led the Lib Dems to their best general election result for 80 years, in 2005.

Asked about the party's recent poor opinion polls, he said that Lib Dems often outperform their opinion poll ratings, and praises the party's by-election performances in 2006.

'Shape-up' call

Sir Menzies, 65, has faced criticism of his performance as leader, particularly at prime minister's question time, since being elected as leader in March.

On Friday, he was told to "shape up" by a leading party member.

Liberal Democrat Welsh Assembly member Peter Black said Sir Menzies had made little impact with the public.

Earlier this year failed leadership contender Simon Hughes said Sir Menzies had until the conference to prove himself.

Two weeks ago, 53% of 1,000 people quizzed by ICM for BBC Two's Newsnight said Mr Kennedy would be the best leader of the party, compared with 26% for Sir Menzies.

Sir Menzies responded by saying: "If I didn't think I had the energy, the values and the judgement to be the leader of the Liberal Democrats, I most certainly wouldn't have offered myself for the job."


SEE ALSO
Kennedy denies leadership reports
30 Jul 06 |  UK Politics
The Charles Kennedy story
09 Jan 06 |  UK Politics
Sir Menzies is told to 'shape up'
28 Jul 06 |  UK Politics
Kennedy receives popularity boost
19 Jul 06 |  UK Politics
Sir Menzies defending his record
14 May 06 |  UK Politics
Ming's 100 days policy blitz
07 Jun 06 |  UK Politics
Embattled Kennedy quits as leader
07 Jan 06 |  UK Politics

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