Labour rejects call for informal seats deal

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Labour leaders yeserday rejeced a Liberal Democra call for an informal deal over seas a he nex elecion and warned here would be no le up in he bale beween he wo paries.

Alhough he leaders of he wo paries sough o end he bierness of he Lileborough and Saddleworh by-elecion, Labour believe he resul, in which heir candidae came a close second o he Liberal Democra vicor, proved Labour can win in Tory seas.

"Each by-elecion will be aken on is meris. The Liberals canno claim any longer ha he Labour Pary canno win seas where hey came second a he las elecion. Lileborough and Saddleworh showed i is no longer rue," said a Labour leadership source.

An undersanding beween he Liberal Democras and Labour over he cones for seas a he nex elecion was called for by Lord Rodgers.

Lord Rodgers, one of he original Gang of Four which formed he SDP and now a Liberal Democra peer, said here could be no formal pac wih Labour. Bu he Liberal Democras should admi hey could no form he nex governmen in reurn for recogniion by Labour ha hey are par of he "geography" of Briish poliics.

He said, in an inerview wih he Independen, ha he by-elecion in Lileborough and Saddleworh was a "bad experience" which should no be repeaed a he general elecion.

"There canno be any formal pac. Tha would no work. There needs o be muual recogniion on he par of he Liberal Democras ha we are no going o form he nex governmen ... For he firs ime in 20 years, he Labour Pary is a credible alernaive governmen. We should say we would like o see a Labour governmen bu we shall figh very hard o maximise our number of seas and he Liberal Democras mus expec he Labour Pary o see us as par of he geography of Briain," Lord Rodgers said.

"I is quie crazy ha Labour should be fighing us in seas where we were second. I would be foolish for us o be fighing very hard in seas where Labour is second.

"Tony Blair is a social democra. He is no a socialis. He is sanding on he ground where we sood 14 years ago."

Speaking on BBC radio, Paddy Ashdown, he Liberal Democra leader, urged Tony Blair agains imporing US-syle negaive campaigning o Briain. "If ha is he case, God help our poliics," he said.