Lib Dem rebels plot to thwart Labour pact

TONY BLAIR and Paddy Ashdown's groundbreaking "Lib-Lab" deal faced a severe challenge last night as rebel Liberal Democrats launched a national campaign to wreck the agreement.

A coalition of the party's MPs, peers and councillors vowed to overturn the controversial deal for closer co-operation signed by the two leaders this week.

The new group, called the Campaign For Liberal Democracy, has set up a national network of supporters furious that the pact was agreed without any consultation.

The leaders claimed that their hand had been forced by the revelation in yesterday's Independent that Labour had set up a "dirty tricks unit" to target the Liberal Democrats at local level. The rebels said that the move by Millbank officials proved that Labour had a twin-track strategy to "co-opt and kill off" the party with a view to eventual takeover.

Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat MP for Southwark North and Bermondsey and the party's health spokesman, is understood to be backing the campaign. He said last night: "The news of a renewed attempt by Labour to have a go at Liberal Democrats on the ground is an expected part of political warfare.

"The issue it raises is whether the strategy of increasing national agreement is either appropriate or acceptable without both parties, by democratic decision, being signed up to delivering it.

"My concern is that the party was forced into making a decision that may not have been taken if there had been a proper democratic process."

Mr Blair and Mr Ashdown stunned both their parties on Wednesday when they revealed the plan to widen the scope of a joint cabinet committee to include areas such as health, welfare reform and Europe.

Opposition to the new deal was also growing last night among Labour MPs and, crucially, large unions normally supportive of Mr Blair. It is understood that the AEEU's leader, Ken Jackson, was "spitting blood" when he heard of the agreement.

However, the severest test for the co-operation pledge will come from the Liberal Democrat rebel campaign, which will use the Internet, local party meetings and forthcoming national conferences to capitalise on grass- roots opposition.

The campaign's first act will be to try to block the deal at the party's Federal Executive meeting on Monday, when it will call for Mr Ashdown to pull out of the committee.

Council leaders from Liverpool, Sheffield and London, where the fight against Labour is the most bitter, will challenge the plan at the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors' conference in Birmingham later this month. The party's student arm, Liberal Democrat Youth and Students, has also called on Mr Ashdown to justify the move at its annual conference next week.

A party spokesman yesterday denied that the new deal had in any way compromised the Liberal Democrats' ability to oppose the Government or Labour councils.

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week