More leadership woes

Talk about political leadership woes and you'd be forgiven for thinking immediately of Labour.

Talk about political leadership woes and you'd be forgiven for thinking immediately of Labour.

The party of Government has after all dominated the headlines for the past week openly debating exactly when Tony Blair will leave, and when - or more precisely if - Gordon Brown will ever take over.

Labour, however, is not the only one.

As the annual party conference season kicked off in Brighton yesterday, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell was also feeling the heat over plans to radically overhaul the party's tax plans.

With a stiff challenge from senior MPs and peers, Ming is no doubt feeling the pressure. And with a resurgent Tory party under David Cameron, members are wondering whether opting for the elder statesman was the wisest move.

As one senior frontbencher said at the time of his election as leader, Ming Campbell is on "probation" until the 2006 party conference. Now the 65-year-old not only has to perform, but show he can lead the Lib Dems, as he proclaimed yesterday, "through the Parliament, through the General Election and beyond".

The vote on tax reforms is the first tangible way of assessing that statement and, if lost, will be a "crucial" blow to his credibility. It is perhaps unfortunate for the leader that this vote comes on the same day as Charles Kennedy makes his return to frontline politics.

The former boss is guaranteed to receive a genuinely warm welcome from activists - the question on most people's lips however is to what scale Kennedy will upstage his ex-deputy.

So despite protests to the contrary, the conference could well be "high noon" for Ming.

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