Letter: Lib Dem strategy

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Sir: In these days of "control freak" leadership, open debate and consensus may not make such good news stories. But I feel I have to correct your report ("Lib Dems demand debate on Labour", 8 December), which gives a rather misleading impression of the Liberal Democrat Federal Executive meeting held on Monday evening.

At the last FE meeting the idea of a ballot of party members on our strategy of co-operation with the Government in a Joint Cabinet Committee was floated, and the Executive, several of whom favoured the idea, decided to revisit the possibility at this month's meeting.

In the meantime, various of the Party's constituent bodies, including the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors, have met to discuss the issue, and the usual consultation mechanisms of the Party have been followed. The feedback has strongly indicated that the Party wishes to concentrate on the great campaigning opportunities of the 1999 elections. The pressure has been dissipated, there is very little appetite for a Special Conference and one is not likely to be called. For this reason we passed a motion deciding against a ballot of the membership at this stage.

We are now keen to "get on with business" and have decided to hold a debate on Party strategy at our autumn conference in Harrogate. The leadership has suggested that we signal this intention to the Party at large when it meets in Edinburgh in March.

This motion was passed with only one objection.

Baroness MADDOCK

President of the Liberal Democrats

London SW1