Labour urged to 'smear' Lib Dems

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The Independent Online
LABOUR ACTIVISTS facing pressure from the Liberal Democrats should "find one flaw and smear them all", according to a leaked party document.

The paper, written by a researcher in Lambeth, was meant to show how New Labour can win back council seats lost because of the "loony left" in the 1980s.

Lambeth's Labour group, which took back control of the council in May, has been praised by Tony Blair as "more New Labour than New Labour".

Now the council's ruling group is spreading its message more widely. Its leader, Jim Dickson, will address a fringe meeting at next week's Labour conference under the document's title, "Lessons from Lambeth."

The paper was leaked to a left-wing magazine, Red Pepper, after being sent to Labour councillors and ward secretaries in Hackney by Luke Akehurst, a former aide to Frank Dobson and Glenda Jackson. Mr Akehurst, who now works for Hackney Labour group, was a member of the Blairite Labour Co-ordinating Committee.

The committee helped to draft far-reaching changes designed to reduce the power of left-wingers in the party. Other members included Neal Lawson and Ben Lucas, former aides to Jack Straw and Gordon Brown, who later formed a lobbying company, LLM.

The four-page document recommends dirty tactics such as offering pacts with the Liberal Democrats in order to attack them when they refuse; working with the Tories "because they tend to hate the Liberal Democrats as much as you do"; and showing the opposition in a negative light.

Labour supporters should suggest working with the Liberal Democrats, the paper says. "Call for a pact around your new agenda and then slam them for opposing it.

"The Liberal Democrats will never do a deal with Labour so you can offer them one in complete safety."

It also offers advice on media management: "Never lose your temper, never tell them off and never break off engagements."

Red Pepper's editor, Hilary Wainwright, said the briefing document showed a contrast between the rhetoric and the reality of New Labour's attitude to the Liberal Democrats.

"These people aren't just local mavericks. They are people who are part of the Millbank set. This will reinforce the fear of a lot of the more radical Liberal Democrats that New Labour is more concerned to destroy them than to have a partnership."

Mr Dickson said the section of the paper dealing with smear tactics had gone "over the top" and the message he hoped to put across was a positive one.

Labour won back a 19-seat majority in Lambeth this year after four years in which the Liberal Democrats were the biggest party.

The council has been beset by revelations of incompetence and fraud. "This briefing was prepared in the context of extremely hard-fought battles in inner London between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. We would never seek to spread false allegations," he said.

Mike Tuffrey, leader of Lambeth Liberal Democrats for eight years until last month, said he believed the document reflected the Labour campaign. "These sort of dirty tricks were evident in their campaign," he said. "Instead of trying to work constructively with us they went behind our backs, did secret deals with the Tories and played politics with the issues."