Kennedy to seek closer Labour ties
Tuesday 10 August 1999
Mr Kennedy, 39, was finally crowned leader yesterday after narrowly beating his main rival Simon Hughes in a ballot of the party's 82,000 members. The MP for Ross, Skye and Inverness West, who won 57 per cent of the vote to Mr Hughes' 43 per cent, immediately pledged to "reconnect" with a British public disappointed by New Labour and unimpressed by the Tories.
Mr Kennedy pledged to overhaul the party to make it a modern campaigning force committed to social justice, Europe, and a "mature" approach to using taxes to fund public services.
But within minutes of his victory, he was plunged into controversy over plans to strengthen the Lib-Lab agreement secured by his predecesso, Paddy Ashdown.
Proclaiming that he wanted the Liberal Democrats to become "a serious party of government", the new leader made clear that he would not rule out further co-operation with the Government. Mr Kennedy stressed that the vote represented a "clear mandate" for his vision of the party's future and aides said that he would use his victory in any battle against left wing activists.
Signalling a stormy party conference this autumn, senior Kennedy figures said that it would be "impossible" for activists to argue for withdrawal from links with the Government.
The Lib-Lab joint cabinet committee, set up by Mr Ashdown and Tony Blair to improve co-operation between the parties on constitutional reform and Europe, would be strengthened, they said. Future discussions about welfare and education policy, which could cause uproar among activists, but were being prepared by Mr Ashdown, had not been not ruled out.
The potential for further trouble was heightened last night when it emerged that the Government was preparing to ditch the Jenkins recommendations on electoral reform. Senior sources have indicated that Mr Blair has succumbed to widespread opposition to proportional representation among Labour MPs and members and will advocate a weaker "alternative vote" system that maintains constituency links.
Any move away from PR is guaranteed to trigger outrage among Liberal Democrats, even though most of the leadership candidates are resigned to a referendum being postponed until after the next general election.
Mr Hughes made clear that he would not tolerate any deepening of links with Labour. He said that he wanted a clear commitment from the Government in its manifesto that it would enact enabling legislation on a referendum within the first year of the next Parliament.
"Charles' mandate is a vote of 50 per cent of the party who vote. He can judge whether he thinks that is a huge mandate, but the leader has no power to extend the remit of the JCC [Joint Cabinet Committee] without the agreement of the party," he said.
Jackie Ballard, the MP for Taunton, who came fourth, also warned of trouble if such a policy was pursued. "Clearly, the mandate Charles Kennedy has is to make a high priority of social issues and the environment and not to have any closer links with the Government. I think Paddy is probably a disappointed man - the party does not want to move the project any closer." Mr Kennedy only passed the 50 per cent winning threshold under the party's system of proportional representation after four rounds as losing candidates' votes were transferred to rivals.
His opponents pointed out that on the first round of voting, he secured 5,000 votes more than the other candidates. In his acceptance speech, Mr Kennedy paid tribute to the "magnificent, positive, inspirational" campaign fought by Mr Hughes.
Downing Street said earlier that Mr Blair hoped the co- operation between the two parties would continue.
Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'
Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance
Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way
Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online
The sound of Goodfellas mafioso Frankie Carbone demanding $250m in “damages” would be chilling enough on film, let alone in real life.
- 1 Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
- 2 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 3 Banksy not arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 Paralysed man Darek Fidyka walks again after treatment by British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis
Ottawa shooting: Canadian soldier dies after being shot at National War Memorial – with one gunman killed inside parliament
Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
Banksy not arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
Diwali: What is the festival of lights and how is it celebrated around the world?
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
£250 - £300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT** Our...
£21000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 Teachers - Chelm...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ampersand Consulting LLP: SAP ABAP Developer - Rugb...
£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...