WHEN we, the members, had to choose who we wanted to replace Paddy Ashdown, I have to admit that Charles Kennedy did not get my vote.

However, as time went by, I was impressed by Charles Kennedy, as he said what I wanted to hear that is, that the Liberal Democrats are an independent political party and in no way are we going to make a pact with another.

He was also concerned about environmental issues and like me, spoke out against the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Charles's drink problem was no secret, so I am very disappointed that the media, no doubt prompted by the rival political parties, went out to destroy him when he was getting his life sorted.

It is not as if liking a drink is a crime. Ken Clark (Conservative) is well known for his drinking and smoking, but the media do not rubbish him because of it.

My regret is that those who wanted a new leader of the Liberal Democrats could not have made the right moves inhouse, rather than a publicity stunt through the media.

Charles did a good job and Paddy was a hard act to follow.

Luckily, we do have other members of parliament capable of leading the party and, to quote Catherine Tate, "Am I bothered?"

The answer is, No not really. Perhaps we needed a new front man or woman.

I hope people are not put off by the mud-slinging and look at the policies, and not so much the people.

After all, they can be replaced.

RICHARD F GRANT, Former chairman, Ringwood, Bransgore & Burley Liberal Democrats, Bisterne Close, Burley