Lib Dem election loss is win for party president

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The Independent Online
THE Liberal Democrats' president, Charles Kennedy, salvaged financial solace from his party's poor showing in the European parliament elections by betting pounds 50 at 50-1 that they would win only two seats.

As senior Liberal Democrats continued to analyse why they failed to repeat their decent performance in the local elections, the party president was allegedly counting winnings of pounds 2,500.

Mr Kennedy, MP for Ross, Cromarty and Skye, was not available for comment last night, the telephone at his flat in London accepting only fax messages.

But a spokesman for the Liberal Democrats rejected a claim that he had gone on a shopping spree with his takings. Olly Grender, Liberal Democrat press officer, said: 'The party can confirm that Charles Kennedy placed a winning bet in line with his public prediction as to the likely number of Lib Dem gains at the European elections.'

Mr Kennedy, 34, at one time the House of Commons' youngest member, had intimated to senior party insiders that if he won - in effect if the party performed way below expectations - the winnings would go into party coffers. 'Therefore there are no grounds for further comment,' Mr Grender added.

Although Mr Grender said his party knew of the bet, Menzies Campbell, MP for Fife North East, said he had not heard anything of Mr Kennedy's wager and had no idea where the party president was.

Opinion polls before the European poll, mirroring the performance of the Liberal Democrats in the local elections, stated that if the results were repeated Mr Kennedy's party could end up with 11 MEPs.

The 50-1 odds were given at a betting shop near the Liberal Democrats' headquarters in central London.

As party president, Mr Kennedy will be playing a leading role in the Liberal Democrats' attempts to mount a legal challenge to the result of the Devon and Plymouth East European seat. Richard Huggett, the 'Literal' Democrat, polled 10,000 votes to deny the Liberal Democrat a win over the Tories.

However if the bookies accept a first-past-the-post system and ignore any stewards' inquiry, which could go as far as a legal challenge in Strasbourg, Mr Kennedy's winnings are likely to be safe.

Charles Kennedy writes, page 19

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