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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 July 2007, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK
Lib Dems 'are ready for election'
Sir Menzies Campbell
Sir Menzies said his party was ready for the next election
The Lib Dems are ready for the next general election "any time it comes", says party leader Sir Menzies Campbell.

Sir Menzies said the party's manifesto had been written and candidates were being adopted.

He said he would lead the party through the election, dismissing reports of questions about his leadership.

"On a daily basis I am in touch with the party, and I hear none of what is anonymously speculated about in some newspapers," he added.

Sir Menzies, talking at a Westminster lunch, was asked whether he would have to raise his game, to compete with the "Brown bounce" - a boost in the polls for the new prime minister - and Tory leader David Cameron.

'Raise our game'

He replied: "It is the duty of all of us to raise our game. All of us in the Liberal Democrats and Parliament have that duty."

Sir Menzies, 66, has faced criticism about his age, image and lack of public profile since he became leader in 2006.

People grumble about their leaders all the time
Sir Menzies Campbell

The party's performance in the May local elections - in which its share of the vote fell by one point to 26% and it lost control of four councils in the south of England to the Tories - has led to press reports suggesting discontent with Sir Menzies' leadership.

But Sir Menzies said: "People grumble about their leaders all the time.

"There was a backwash in the Labour Party about Tony Blair. A backwash in the Tory party about David Cameron. But I have found no-one directly, face to face, saying any of these things to me."

Cabinet offer

Instead he said he was devoting all his "time and energy and effort" into leading the party through the next election and into the next Parliament.

Both the Tories and the Lib Dems have called on Gordon Brown - who was elected unopposed as Labour leader after Tony Blair stepped down - to call an immediate general election.

Sir Menzies admitted his post bag was "split 50/50" on whether former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown should have accepted a job in Gordon Brown's Cabinet and said it took him 24 hours to reach a decision, after consulting with senior advisers.

Tax plans

But he added: "It didn't seem to me you could possibly envisage circumstances in which a Liberal Democrat was a member of the government at a time when Liberal Democrats were challenging that government on so many issues."

Later this week he will outline his party's tax plans - aimed at reducing the burden on low and middle income earners while tackling environmental damage.

He refused to confirm reports they will propose slashing the basic income tax rate to 16p in the pound, saying: "We are willing to ask people who have done particularly well to make a higher contribution than they have so far - but all will be revealed."

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