Sir Menzies Campbell: You ask the questions

Liberal Democrat Party leader on whether his popularity has peaked, and if he likes lentils?
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The Independent Online

Do you feel responsible for the party's disappointing showing in the elections? Has your party's popularity peaked? C SALES SOMERSET

We consolidated our position. The media were talking up expectations above our internal estimates. I am pleased that, despite the turbulent time the party has had since Christmas, we won control of Richmond-upon-Thames from the Conservatives and won control of South Lakeland and St Albans. More significantly, we beat Labour into third place and have consolidated our position as the main opposition to Labour in the cities. On Thursday, the Conservatives failed to win a single seat in Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Cambridge, Oxford, Newcastle, Gateshead. Last week, The Guardian/ICM poll put the Liberal Democrats at 24 per cent, our highest poll rating for a long time. As for feeling responsible, a party is a team, and I am a team player. Our success is due to the effort of every individual. It is because of the Liberal Democrats' democratic commitment to every member that we will continue our sure and steady organic growth.

Won't you look too old at the next General Election up against David Cameron, or even Gordon Brown? ADAM PITCHES MAIDSTONE

My grandmother used to say, "trust age before beauty". Voters are more sensible than the media gives them credit for. It's my values, energy and judgement that count at the ballot box, not how much hair I have.

Do you wish you were English, given the problems of having Scottish leaders of parties that need to win in England? J MILES DORKING

No. I am proud to be Scottish, British and European.

What three practical things would you recommend each of us to do to help save the planet, that you do yourself ? JAMES MILLAR TETBURY

Drive less, fly less and buy less. Climate change is the greatest threat to the human race at present. But emissions that contribute to climate change do not just come from power stations and air travel. We all have a carbon footprint that relates to how much we spend and how much we travel. It sounds obvious, but most things we buy have to be produced using energy and transported around the world.

Isn't it a bit hypocritical that you only offered to get rid of your gas-guzzling car once you became leader? CHRIS LIGHTOWLER ASHFORD, KENT

No one would have noticed before! In fact, it was 19 years old and I only drove it for about 2,000 miles per year. It has gone to a motor museum in East Lothian. I shall go on Sundays and stroke it! Seriously, the true test of my commitment to the environment is a willingness to take difficult decisions and make hard choices for the good of the planet. I could ride a bicycle to work and put a windmill on my roof but if I were to vote for nuclear power or obstruct efforts to raise Vehicle Excise Duty in Parliament then it would count for nothing.

Are you prepared to put a tax on cheap air flights? DOREEN WILKINSON HUDDERSFIELD

Yes, but not just cheap flights. Party policy is for a carbon tax on all emissions whether from power stations, cars or aircraft.

Do you own any sandals? Have you ever had a beard? Do you like lentils? ANDY HUNT LEICESTER

No, no and no.

When were you first aware of Charles Kennedy's drinking problem, and would you offer him a front-bench job? JULIAN CROWE SOUTH LONDON

A point had been reached when it was in his interests and the party's that he should step down but nothing can detract from the legacy he gave the party of its best result since the early 1920s. The party will forever be in his debt. I shall be happy to welcome Charles back to the front bench whenever he is ready.

Is it irritating having a name no one can pronounce? Is it a family name? B PERRYVALE DERBY

It is a family name. It is pronounced "Mingus" in Scotland and I have tried to make sure it is pronounced that way everywhere. The origins of "Menzies" are said to be French. Without it, my initials would be "W.C." You can see why I like Menzies!

What's the bigger buzz - sporting or political victory? CHARLES PAVER BARNSTAPLE

People ask if I am obsessed about politics but really I am obsessed about sport. To run in an Olympic relay final was awesome but when Scotland win at Murrayfield - which doesn't happen often - I feel even better! But I remember when I first won North-east Fife after three elections and 11 years. That was a pretty satisfying moment.

Will you be repaying Michael Brown's £2.4m donation to your party? JULIETTE BAKER TRURO

The donation was accepted in good faith and spent on the purposes for which it was given. Michael Brown did not ask for and did not receive any preferment in return. The Electoral Commission has said that we were entitled to receive it.

Will you stick with replacing the council tax with a local income tax? ISABELLE ELLIS NORTH LONDON

Our tax commission is considering proposals for reforming our tax policies. It is being informed by two principles. Firstly, that the tax burden as a whole should move away from "goods" such as income, towards "bads" such as pollution. Secondly, that the system should be fairer and should be based on ability to pay. Council tax is too flat, it hits people the same regardless of income.

How did you react to being told you had cancer? Did it change your outlook on life? M SINGH COVENTRY

Nothing prepares you for the moment when you are told. But a combination of good fortune and good treatment has given me a second chance. I intend to take it.

You will not say which party you would back in a hung Parliament. But if the polls are pointing that way, how can you keep dodging the question? WINIFRED GATES BRIGHTON

I am determined that our party will not be distracted by endless talk of a "hung Parliament". We must concentrate on maximising votes and seats.

Does your wife still vote Tory? PETER BOLTON NORWICH

No. She stopped doing so before we met. Her first job was in Tory party Central Office. But that was in the days of Rab Butler and Iain Macleod and a rather different Tory party from today.

Do you regret not having children? JULIE RICKMAN STOCKTON-ON-TEES

That is a private matter.

Do you have an iPod? What have you downloaded onto it? SHARON COOKE NORTH BERWICK

No. My tastes in music are not very sophisticated. I listen usually in the car to everything from opera to pop.

Did you disapprove of and/or try to stop Charles Kennedy from attending the 2003 anti-war rally? MANI CHOUDHURY OXFORD

No and No.

How does your policy on when British troops should be withdrawn from Iraq differ from the other main parties? HELEN ORGAN BY E-MAIL

We opposed the military action against Iraq, as you know. But the British presence now is under a United Nations mandate. It is in no one's interest that Iraq should become a failed state. If Iraq were to break up, the effect would be to destabilise the Middle East and to damage British interests. My complaint with the Government is the failure to articulate a credible exit strategy, based on transfer of sovereignty, restoration of public services and Iraqi responsibility for their own security. We cannot sustain an indefinite commitment. Sooner or later we will have to leave.

What makes you happy? VALERIE MILES TELFORD

A week's fishing in Scotland followed by a week in Italy.

Is Nick Clegg your leader in waiting? If not, who is? K SMYTHE INVERNESS

I am proud to be the leader of a very talented team. The party has come a long way since 1987 when I was first elected, when there were only 18 of us in the Commons. There are many bright stars for the future.

As for which one of the many talented performers, I wouldn't like to guess. It will be for the members to decide the next leader. I will have one vote just like everyone else.

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