Education spokesman eyes Lib Dem top spot

January 29, 1999

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Don Foster may run for party leader in the wake of Paddy Ashdown's decision to stand down.

Mr Foster, MP for Bath, said last week: "I am neither ruling it in nor out. There is no vacancy for some time. I will wait until after the European elections to decide whether to throw my name into the hat."

Mr Foster's bid for leadership would be a long shot against race favourites Charles Kennedy, Menzies Campbell and Simon Hughes. He said that if he did not run for leadership he might link up with his preferred candidate, a move that could put him in line for deputy leader. Insiders say that Mr Foster is ideologically closest to Mr Campbell, MP for Fife North-East.

There is speculation that Mr Foster, a former science education lecturer at Bristol University and education project director for Bristol local education authority, wants to move from the education team he has headed for seven years.

Foreign affairs spokesman, the post held by Mr Campbell, might suit a man who lists issues in the developing world and Amnesty International among his interests.

If Mr Foster did move, his deputy Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough), a former head teacher, would be well placed to take over in education.

Mr Foster said he was confident that whoever replaced Mr Ashdown, the party's education policy would remain substantively unchanged.

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