Charles Kennedy has been told that he must take quick action to meet the threat to the Liberal Democrats from the new Tory leader, David Cameron, or face "fatal" consequences.
Nick Clegg, the party's foreign affairs spokesman, who is seen as a potential leadership challenger, paid tribute to the professionalism of the new Conservative campaign to win over Liberal Democrat supporters.
The latest Tory propaganda is "nicely worded and well-presented, polite and measured", while the Liberal Democrats are in danger of looking "tired and out of touch" and must do more to "enhance the credibility of the party", he said.
His remarks will be interpreted as another coded message to Mr Kennedy to use the Christmas break to decide whether he wants to quit, or improve his act. Writing in yesterday's Evening Standard, Mr Clegg warned: "Stories of plots, counter-plots, a threatened Charles Kennedy and uppity pretenders make great headlines, but the real challenge for the party is elsewhere. Politics is suddenly changing rapidly, and Lib Dems must understand and respond to those changes quickly. Intellectual leadership is required, and fast. A failure to move with the times will be fatal to the party."Reuse content