Liberal Democrat MPs offered no support to Charles Kennedy in his bid to return to the front line of politics yesterday.

Mr Kennedy's attempted comeback has been hit by claims senior colleagues concealed the extent of his drinking from voters.

The former leader made it clear in an interview at the weekend he hoped to be offered a job in the Lib Dem front bench.

But MP John Hemming (Lib Dem Yardley) said: "I don't mind if he comes back or not. It depends if there is a vacancy."

Mr Kennedy was forced to resign as leader last January after admitting a drink problem.

Next month he will break a self-imposed silence with a speech on domestic and foreign affairs at the Liberal Democrat conference.

It is seen as the first stage of a campaign to rehabilitate himself and return to the front benches.

But there has been speculation he could regain the leadership.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the new leader, has been stung by criticism of his Commons performances.

There is anger among g rassroots members Mr Kennedy was ousted by MPs without them.

The prospect of Mr Kennedy becoming leader again was firmly opposed by MP Lorely Burt (Lib Dem Solihull).

She said: "No, I don't want that. This talk about a challenge has been whipped up by the media. If Sir Menzies thinks he is ready for some sort of front bench job that is absolutely fine. But it is up to the leader."

Mr Hemming said: "There are two or three talented people in the parliamentary party and he is one of them.

"If he wants a job on the front bench and there is a vacancy, he can do that. I don't mind."

Mr Kennedy will be hoping for a more enthusiastic response from activists, who elected him leader but saw him deposed by plotting at Westminster.

However, a new biography has re-opened controversy over his drinking and the truth behind his final days as leader.

He already had a serious drink problem when he became leader in 1999, according to Charles Kennedy: A Tragic Flaw.

According to the book, he planned to make a public admission in 2003, two years before he finally revealed he was an alcoholic.

But he changed his mind, and his inner circle, including Sir Menzies, agreed to cover up the problem.