Charles Kennedy announces that he is resigning as leader of the Liberal Democrats. Kennedy’s resignation was the final act of a turbulent period in the party’s history which began after the 2005 general election. Concern about Kennedy’s drinking began to be expressed and although Kennedy took steps to assert his authority discontent grew, culminating in a letter signed by half the members of the shadow cabinet asking Kennedy to consider his position. In January, following information that ITV woulf be running a story about his drinking, Kennedy convened a press conference to announce that he was calling a leadership election in which he would be a candidate. This was the last straw for most of the party’s MPs who indicated that they would not serve under him. Faced with this ultimatum Kennedy resigned two days later.

Willie Rennie wins the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election

The by-election was caused by the death of the sitting Labour MP, Rachel Squire after a long illness. Despite poor opinion poll ratings at the start of the campaign, and reports that Liberal Democrat ambitions were confined to holding off the SNP to retain second place, Rennie and his team pulled off the first by-election defeat for Labour in Scotland since they lost the Glasgow Govan seat to the SNP in 1988, turning a Labour majority of over 11,000 into a Lib Dem majority of 1,800. The by-election took place during the Lib Dem leadership election which followed the resignation of Charles Kennedy, a difficult time for the party. Sir Menzies Campbell, whose North East Fife seat was next door, and the winner of the leadership campaign said the victory had been won because of a ‘very good local candidate’ who had fought a ‘very good campaign’.

Sir Menzies Campbell is elected leader of the Liberal Democrats

The election had been triggered by the resignation of Charles Kennedy. Campbell the early favourite was challenged by Chris Huhne and Simon Hughes. Huhne in particular fought an energetic campaign and gained a good deal of ground in the campaign so that when the first round of voting was announced Huhne had pushed Hughes into third place. After Hughes’ votes were redistributed, Campbell was elected with 29,697 votes to Huhne’s 21,628. As leader, Campbell brought more rigour to policy making and to party organisation, however his leadership was never fully embraced by the party and after leading the Liberal Democrats for barely 18 months, Campbell resigned in October 2007.

The Tories get a scare in the Bromley by-election

Liberal Democrat candidate Ben Abbotts increases the party’s share of the vote at the Bromley and Chislehurst by-election by 17.5% to finish just 633 votes behind the victorious Conservative, the party jumping from third place at the previous general election. Nigel Farage came third for UKIP with 8% of the poll and for only the second time since 1945, Labour dropped to fourth place.

Nick Clegg is elected leader of the Liberal Democrats

The contest between the two candidates to succeed Menzies Campbell, Clegg and Chris Huhne rarely caught fire but was notable for some personal spats, the most notorious of which was the “Calamity Clegg” dossier leaked to the media by the Huhne camp. Clegg the front runner fought a cautious campaign to the frustration of some of his supporters. Huhne the outsider was more aggressive and finished strongly so that when the result was announced, Clegg’s majority was just over 500 votes.

Simon Hughes is elected Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats

The previous incumbent, Vince Cable, had resigned on his appointment as Business Secretary in the newly formed coalition government. There was one other candidate in the contest, Tim Farron the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale. After a short campaign Hughes received the votes of 38 of the party’s MPs to Farron’s 18 with one abstention. Hughes served until January 2014 when he resigned, following his appointment as a government minister.

Mike Thornton wins the Eastleigh by-election

The by-election was triggered by the resignation of Chris Huhne, former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and saw Thornton beat Diane James of the UK Independence Party with a majority of 1,771 to record the first by-election victory for the Liberal Democrats since 2006 and provided a rare example of a governing party successfully defending a seat.