Mr Hughes, who was defeated by Sir Menzies in the leadership race earlier this year, acknowledged rumblings about his lacklustre performance at Prime Minister's Question Time, but said the party was focusing on reorganising the Liberal Democrat machine.
In a veiled warning to Sir Menzies, Mr Hughes said the leader had to "learn" the domestic policy beat. He told GMTV: "He was set that area to learn but I think we need to judge him when it comes to conference after six months rather than after a few weeks, and I'll tell you why ... since the day he was elected, and I wasn't coincidentally on the same day, we have both been out and about round the country. All our effort has, bluntly, been concentrated on supporting our local councillors and council campaigners at a time we knew would be difficult because we knew the Tory party was picking up."
Asked if Sir Menzies should put more effort into his PMQ clashes with Tony Blair, Mr Hughes said: "I understand that and that's a fair comment and Ming is fully aware of that. I'm sure that he will be seen to be more sparky and more improved because he will now have time to be in Westminster and concentrating.
"But it's not to be underestimated the work that needed to be done behind the scenes for getting the policies sorted ... we have in many ways still got the great campaigning legacy of the Liberals of the Seventies and Eighties and not a machine suitable for the new century."
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