Ashdown predicts break up of Tory & Labour parties after Election

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Both the Tory and Labour parties will break up after the next election, Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, predicts in an interview published tomorrow. Forecasting a "realignment" of British politics despite an outright majority for Tony Blair, Mr Ashdown sees his party as poised to benefit.

Both main parties contain "people who are diametrically opposed to each other and I see the next election as the point at which there is a real opportunity for new formations in politics", Mr Ashdown tells the New Statesman, suggesting that Europe could be the trigger issue. Speaking before his party's conference in Brighton in 10 days, he says: "If we can articulate clearly enough what we stand for, if we have courage, the party has a good chance of making real progress, of being the catalyst that brings about realignment."