The Liberal Democrats have broken with tradition and announced the date of next year's leadership election a full year ahead of schedule, November 30
Nick Clegg, winner of the 2007 contest, said that he had taken the decision to publicise next year's election so early to give the media a chance to prepare.
"Clearly this year the coverage of the 2007 Lib Dem campaign was hampered by the fact that all of the country's media resources were at that time in Iraq and we clearly did not give them time to redeploy. Equally, a number of our possible contenders will be in pantomime over the festive period. I know for a fact that Simon Hughes is doing a turn as Widow Twankey - at least I think that's how you spell it."
Winners of previous elections include the popular quiz show host Charles Kennedy and the nation's favourite former Scottish Olympic sprinter, Menzies "Ming" Campbell.
Asked whether the Lib Dems had chosen November 30 2008 deliberately to avoid the Christmas shopping rush, Clegg was emphatic: "We are able to be sufficiently disorganised ourselves without any help from Christmas chaos."