Strangely enough I was having a conversation with Delphine earlier this evening along very similiar lines.
Now that the Tories have got David Cameron as their ledaer and Gordon brown is likely to be the Labour leader by the next General Elecrtion I think the LibDems are going to be in a bit of trouble. Especially if Charles Kennedy remains as there leader. The only problem is finding someone charismatic and forceful enough to take the reigns and move the party forward.
Cameron will attract a lot of people back to the Conservative party and added to that will be the continued negative feeling towards the Labour party - not least because of Blair - but also just because they will have been in government for so long that people will start wanting a change. When Labour came to power anyone could have been leading the party as Britain had just 'had enough' of the Tories. It just happened to be a young, charismatic leader called Tony Blair. The same will soon be true of Labours exit. People will have just 'had enough' of this government and its policies. Having the Tories run by a 'young, charismatic' leader is just a bonus and will attract a lot of voters, especially if the Tories policies start moving into the centre ground too.
Brown will also win back some support to the Labour party that has drifted over to the LibDems. He will be a change from Blair and a number of people who've moved to the LibDems have partially done so because of their dislike for Blair in particular.
These two things ARE going to pose problems to not least the growth of LibDem MPs ion the next Parliament but more worryingly keeping the number they have already there.
This last General Election was a time when the LibDems could really have stamped their mark firmly on British Politics. Sure, they did good. They are the strongest third party Britain has seen since 1921 near the start of the Labour movement. But with the anti-War/anti-Blair/anti-Tory feeling they could, and should, have done a lot better. Kennedy has been a good leader but he is not the man to take the party yet another step further up the political ladder. Sure he can be very charismatic if you meet him personally (so I've been told) but little of that really comes over in interviews and reports. I wish we still had Paddy Ashdown personally. I've no idea who in the party could replace Charles Kennedy at the moment. The 'Big Two' name sin the pot would be Simon Hughes (who I find immensely grey - always have done - he just strikes me as dull although I know he can be very witty - but perception and image unfortunately count a lot these days with the voting public) and Sir Menzies Campbell who in my mind is one of the best MP's in the whole Parliament. The only problem with Sir Campbell is that he is getting on in years (he's currently 64). I'd love to see him as a 'stop-gap' leader whilst the party looks for someone younger and as charismatic as him but I can't see that really happening.
Anyway, all speculation as Kennedy hasn't made any signal he'll be stepping down at any point soon, despite grumblings within not only parts of the party but also his own Front Bench.