March 2005 - Disappointed by the 2005 results, Don Foster resigns
Having saved the party from the 1997 disaster by making a comeback in 2000, Don Foster's approach to the 2005 Campaign was much criticized, particularly after the Lib Dems failed to make their expected breakthrough against the hard-right Conservatives and the hard-left Labour. Believing the party to need a more fresh face, Foster resigned at once, opening a contest for Leader and Deputy Leader. More than policy itself, the main topics of debate would end up being where to take the party in ideological terms, and just as relevant, whether to make deals with other parties or movements to contest the expected early election within a few months.
Charles Kennedy: One of the Lib Dems's Scottish MP's, the charismatic and TV friendly Kennedy is the heir of sorts to both Paddy Ashdown and Don Foster, arguing for the Lib Dems to remain a center-left progressive party committed to political reform, a fairer society, environmentalism and social liberal policies. While arguing for the party to keep a similar course to the one followed by Foster, Kennedy has famously supported the concept of an electoral alliance with New Labour (as proposed by Tony Blair), defending the idea of a "progressive alliance" as the best way to challenge Labour and the Tories.
David Laws: Author of the famous "Orange Book", which charted a Liberal course towards social and economic liberalism rather than the progressive center-left, Laws is the candidate of the right of the party, calling for government decentralization, economic liberalization, a pro-Europe stance and continued social liberal stances. Laws also supports the idea of forming an alliance with New Labour, but he is believed to argue that the Lib Dems should place themselves back at a center between Labour and the Conservatives, and be willing to work with them if led by more moderate leaders.
Simon Hughes: Seen as the candidate of the left-wing, Hughes is running on a manifesto of "freedom, fairness and sustainability", emphasising social justice and environmentalism on his campaign. Hughes is hostile to the idea of allying with the New Labour MP's, and is believed to be willing to work with the Labour Party above the other alternatives on matters of policy.
Deputy Candidates:Menzies Campbell
: The patrician and eloquent Menzies Campbell is back after his disastrous leadership bid in 1997, turned into more of an elder statesman for the party. Combining his expertice on foreign affairs (which he sees as crucial on the current crisis) with a commitment to fighting poverty and environmentalism, Campbell is seen to align more with the left on the contest.Vince Cable
: A clever parliamentarian and an economic expert, Cable is a curious mix of a self-described "social democrat" (from the old SDP) who nonetheless shares some of the views presented by Laws and the Orange Book Lib Dems. Emphasising the need to give the party a more focused message on the economy to find solutions to the crisis, Cable is seen a aligning more with the right on the contest.