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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 October 2007, 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK
Lib Dem hopefuls in head-to-head
Nick Clegg (left) and Chris Huhne. Pictures from PA and Getty
Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne are the only contenders so far
The only two Liberal Democrat MPs to declare themselves as candidates for the party leadership have gone head-to-head at a party conference.

Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg outlined their credentials to party activists in Berkshire. The event was planned before Sir Menzies Campbell's resignation.

They did not engage in a debate but spoke separately at the meeting, which was effectively an unofficial hustings.

Sir Menzies' successor will be announced in December.

'Liberal Britain'

Environment spokesman and MP for Eastleigh Chris Huhne was the first to speak at the event, held in a school hall in Newbury.

The 53-year-old, who launched his leadership bid at a Westminster restaurant on Wednesday, told activists they needed to build a "Liberal Britain".

"I am confident that our best years are still to come and it is not enough merely to live in a Britain where half of the people say they are Liberal but don't vote Liberal," he said.

AGE: 53
JOB: Environment spokesman
FAMILY: Married, five children
EDUCATION: Westminster School, Oxford University
BEFORE MP: Journalist, businessman and Euro MP

"We need to build a Liberal Britain."

He said the party's "commitment to social justice was absolutely crucial", adding it was not acceptable in modern British society for a child to be born in poverty.

Mr Huhne said he would focus on helping pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, pensions and restoring faith in public services.

He also spoke of wanting to "lance the boil" of Euro scepticism and addressed the issue of climate change.

'Enormous opportunity'

Nick Clegg, 40, who is the party's Home Affairs spokesman and MP for Sheffield Hallam, then addressed the activists.

The current favourite to win the leadership contest, he announced his candidacy on Friday.

AGE: 40
JOB: Home Affairs spokesman
FAMILY: Married, two children
EDUCATION: Westminster School, Cambridge University
BEFORE MP: Journalist, lecturer and Euro MP

He described the leadership contest as an "enormous opportunity" for the party to showcase what they have to offer, to let the public know there was "another kind of politics".

He said the Lib Dems had been "inward looking" in recent years, adding: "Now is the time for us to look outward."

"I passionately believe there are millions of people in this country who share our values of fairness, diversity, our insistence that we must protect the environment for future generations and our cherished British liberties," he said.

"But many of them haven't given us their votes. It is the task of any political party to reach out to these voters."

'Absolutely appallingly'

Mr Clegg criticised Gordon Brown as "one of the most controlling and centralising politicians in recent years".

He also said David Cameron's assertion that he was a 'Liberal Conservative' was an insult to the word liberal.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Clegg was scathing about those who he sees as responsible for forcing Sir Menzies out.

Sir Menzies was treated "absolutely appallingly" and subjected to "barely-disguised ageism", said Mr Clegg.

He described him as "one of my closest friends in politics" and a man of "enormous integrity and courage".

Two-horse race

Any other potential candidates have another 10 days to put themselves forward for the position.

Mr Clegg told the BBC on Friday that the contest would, in all probability, be a two-horse race.

The leadership race was prompted by the surprise resignation of Sir Menzies on Monday.

He said questions about his leadership were "getting in the way of further progress by the party".

A number of senior figures - including acting leader Vince Cable and MP David Laws - have ruled themselves out of the running to replace him.

Meanwhile, former leader Charles Kennedy has said he will not be endorsing a candidate and is unlikely to throw his own hat into the ring despite receiving "thousands" of e-mails urging him to do so.

Mr Kennedy, who quit in early 2006, insisted he was "content" with his life at present.

The two Liberal Democrats vying for leadership

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