Lib Dems saddened by Kennedy resignation

LIBERAL Democrats in Suffolk have today spoken of their sadness at the resignation of party leader Charles Kennedy but said they believe he made the right decision.

LIBERAL Democrats in Suffolk have today spoken of their sadness at the resignation of party leader Charles Kennedy but said they believe he made the right decision.

Mr Kennedy stood down as leader of the party on Saturday, two days after admitting that he was battling a drink problem.

Baroness Ros Scott of Needham Market, who is a Liberal Democrat frontbencher in the House of Lords, said: “I'm glad that the issue did not drag on any longer and got resolved but, on a personal level, it's very sad.

“Charles Kennedy gave me my peerage and has always treated me with the utmost respect and friendliness.

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“He needs to go and sort his life out really and the party has got to move on. It's important that we learn lessons but that we are not drawn in to a period of blame-casting or recrimination.”

Richard Atkins, leader of Ipswich Borough Council's Liberal Democrats group, said: “I want to express my sincere wishes that he manages to get over his problems and thank him for being a great leader over the years.

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“I am sure he will continue to be a very good constituency MP and an asset to the party.

“In a way, I'm pleased for him that he stepped down rather than got pushed.”

Kathy Pollard, leader of Suffolk County Council's Liberal Democrats group, said: “I am very sad that it has come to this. I think it's something that the party has lived with for quite a time and we've all been extremely loyal to Charles.

“I think the national media had Charles in their sights and wanted to try and force the change of leadership.

“He's made the right decision because it's relieved the pressures on him and his problems had obviously affected his performance.

“I thought he resigned in a very dignified way.”

Inga Lockington, a Liberal Democrat member of Suffolk County Council, said: “I think, in the circumstances, he had to make that decision. Now he has made the decision I hope that he will be left to have a bit of a quiet time.

“If I were him I would take the time to enjoy his son for a while.”

The Liberal Democrat members contacted by The Evening Star would not be drawn on who they would like to see as the next leader but veteran Lib Dem MP and deputy leader Sir Menzies Campbell remains favourite to succeed Mr Kennedy.

Strong challenges are also expected from party president Simon Hughes and home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten.

Charles Kennedy has been leader of the Liberal Democrats since August 1999.

On Thursday he was forced to publicly admit that he had a drink problem after the news leaked that he was receiving treatment for it.

At the time, he was determined not to bow to pressure and called a leadership contest, insisting he retained the “overwhelming” support of the party grassroots.

However, a preliminary opinion poll showed 65 per cent of party members wanted him replaced.

He announced his resignation on Saturday afternoon, amid signs that activists as well as MPs had lost confidence in him.

Twenty five MPs issued a public ultimatum to him to stand down by today, or face mass frontbench resignations.

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