Kennedy admits drink problem

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy tonight admitted he has battled with alcohol addiction for the past 18 months - and threw down the gauntlet to rivals to stand against him in a leadership contest.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy tonight admitted he has battled with alcohol addiction for the past 18 months - and threw down the gauntlet to rivals to stand against him in a leadership contest.

Making the admission, he said he had not “touched a drop for two months, and I don't intend to”.

He said he had sought professional help for his problems and said he still regarded himself as a competent and professional leader.

But he said that given the nature of his statement it was right to give Liberal Democrat members the chance to vote whether he should continue in the party's top job.


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Richard Atkins, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Ipswich council, said: "I am glad on a personal level that Charles Kennedy has acknowledged the problem. That is a major part of the battle for him.

"It is quite possible for people who are ill in this way to recover, get treatment and continue working - I really hope he continues with his recovery for his own sake and that of his family.

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"It will be interesting to see who else throws their hat into the ring for the leadership - there are several very attractive potential candidates and it will be interesting to see if they stand."

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten, widely seen as a possible replacement, has already ruled himself out of the contest.

The statement followed weeks of speculation about his future as party leader, including calls from fellow MPs to hold a vote of no confidence or a full-scale leadership contest.

During last year's election Mr Kennedy was dogged by allegations about his drinking habits and was criticised for stumbling over the details of his party's tax plans at a press conference, apparently caused by exhaustion after the birth of his first child.

- For full local reaction see Friday's Evening Star

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