Lib Dems deny Charles Kennedy to defect to Labour

image captionMr Kennedy did not vote for the coalition in May

The Liberal Democrats have denied reports that former party leader Charles Kennedy is considering defecting to Labour.

It follows press and online speculation that Mr Kennedy has been talking to Labour whips because of unease at his party's coalition with the Tories.

However, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has described the reports as "nonsense".

Mr Kennedy became leader of the party in 1999 but resigned in 2006 after admitting he had a drink problem.

There have been reports that the long-serving MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber is upset about the extent of spending cuts being proposed by the coalition government.

Poll ratings

In May, Mr Kennedy was among those in his party who refused to vote for the coalition deal, preferring to tie-in with Labour.

Despite the speculation, deputy prime minister Mr Clegg said: "I don't think I can do better than quote Charles, who said it's the silliest of the silly season stories in August."

He said he had had an e-mail from Mr Kennedy, and continued: "It's just nonsense, and I think we shouldn't waste too much time talking about things which simply aren't true."

Mr Kennedy was not available for comment.

media captionEd Miliband says there is dismay among many in the Liberal Democrat party

Speaking to BBC News, Labour leadership candidate Ed Miliband said the speculation was the result of an "over-excited blogosphere."

But he added: "I do think there are lots and lots of very unhappy Liberal Democrats though, not just members of parliament but others, who think 'we came into politics for a fairer, more just and equal society and we've got a coalition delivering absolutely the opposite'."

The story comes amid slumping poll ratings for the Lib Dems, and widespread talk of grassroots dismay at the partnership with the Conservatives.

Earlier this week, leader Nick Clegg rejected fears that his party was being damaged by the alliance.

Playing down fears that the party was losing its identity, he said: "If we weren't in a coalition now I don't think people would take any notice of the Liberal Democrats.

"If we were in a coalition with Labour arguably our identity crisis would be even worse."

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