Did the party behave badly when they ousted you as leader?
After Gordon Brown decided not to call an election, I reached the conclusion independently that the obsession with my age would get in the way of the progress of the party. I was not helped by some colleagues in both Houses of Parliament who allowed themselves to be drawn into commenting on my age which simply threw fuel on the fire.
Do you miss being leader?
To begin with I missed it a lot. I missed being at the centre of events, but I have found plenty of things to do. I have joined the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons, become a director of an investment trust, brought out my autobiography and intend to practise some law during the parliamentary recess. There is more time for my constituents, my family, and my interests in theatre, music and sport.
Have you taken up any new hobbies since stepping down as leader?
No, but I have now got time for my original ones.
Do you still think that you were ousted because of your age or, on reflection, because you weren't quite up to the job?
I had three objectives when I became leader – first to restore morale and a sense of purpose after Charles Kennedy's resignation and the leadership election, to make the Party much more professional internally, and to prepare the party for a general election. I achieved all three.
What's your biggest regret from your time as leader?
Not having the chance to fight the election which I had prepared the party for last October.
The country loves Vincent Cable. Why don't you make him leader?
The membership elects the leader of our party from those who offer themselves as candidates. Vince chose not to stand but performed brilliantly while he was acting leader.
As a defender of civil liberties, how can you oppose a boycott of the Beijing Olympics?
I believe that a boycott of Beijing would not have the slightest impact on civil liberties in China. Better to take every opportunity to make the case for the universality of personal freedom and individual liberty.
Should Olympic drug cheats be banned for life?
I would not select them. I am hard line on drugs in sport. It is cheating to take drugs and there are potentially serious medical consequences. Olympic competitors are role models for young sportsmen and women.
How do you rate David Miliband's performance as Foreign Secretary?
As a long-term friend of Gordon Brown, are you surprised he has proved such a disaster as PM?
I think he has found the transition from Chancellor to PM a difficult one. Leadership of political parties is challenging and gruelling.
Should we put any cap on immigration?
No. But we need an immigration policy which is fair and not discriminatory. Next time you are in a hospital look at all the dedicated doctors and nurses from all over the world who make the NHS what it is.
The Liberal Democrats are going backwards. What's going wrong?
We are not going backwards. There is now a core Liberal Democrat vote of around 20 per cent in Britain. Nick Clegg is just the person to build on that and I am sure he will do so.
Was it a mistake for Clegg to hint at a coalition deal with the other parties?
Nick Clegg did not say he was in favour of coalition, but that he was open to co-operation on specific policy issues.
First saying he doesn't believe in God, then talking about his sex life. Should you advise Clegg to stop giving interviews?
The public always appreciates MPs who give direct answers.
Would an experienced parliamentarian like yourself have led his party out of the Commons?
I have been punctilious in not second guessing the new leader. It is for him to decide strategy and tactics.
How many sexual partners have you had in your life?
None of your bloody business.
Who is the best prime minister we never had?
What is the greatest threat to UK's security?
The immediate threat is obviously terrorism but in the long term the consequences of climate change could be equally serious.
Your wife, Elspeth, was clearly an important influence on your life. What influence did she have on your political decisions?
From the first time I stood as a candidate in 1974 we have done politics together. My wife would not claim to be a policy expert but she is a shrewd judge of character.
The environment has fallen down the agenda. Why?
I don't believe the environment has fallen down the agenda. But I am disappointed that the Government is only interested in environmental taxation as a means to raise revenue and not change behaviour.
You are PM for the day. What do you do?
Announce a programme for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.
You had a life before politics. Are there too many career politicians now?
To paraphrase Kipling, "what do they know of politics, who only politics know". I had two lives before I came into Parliament, sport and the law. I think I am a better politician as a result.
Who would you like to see as the next US president?
Not for me to say but what a contest.Reuse content