Politics: Hughes aims to benefit from Kennedy wobble

SIMON HUGHES will try to seize the initiative in the race to become the next Liberal Democrat leader by attacking Charles Kennedy's plans for closer links with Labour.

With ballot papers going out, Mr Hughes is keen to capitalise on growing hostility in the party to Tony Blair's New Labour policies. The mood has already led to a wobble in Mr Kennedy's campaign - and could prove the decisive issue.

Mr Kennedy yesterday countered claims that he is cosying up to Labour by attacking the Government for following right-wing US-style policies of free-market economics.

Supporters of Mr Hughes and Jackie Ballard, another of the five candidates to take over from Paddy Ashdown on 9 August, have privately accused Mr Kennedy, the front- runner, of changing tack on links with the Government to match the anti-Labour sentiment in the party.

"Kennedy is back-tracking and flimflamming because he knows it's unpopular with the grass roots," said a Hughes campaigner. "Charles has sold his soul to Don Foster [the education spokesman] and the party establishment who like the whiff of power the joint Cabinet committee provides them with, but that is not going down well with the grass roots who have their heads kicked in by Labour activists."

Mr Kennedy, MP for Ross, Skye and Inverness West since 1983, has said he would not rule out further co-operation with the Labour Government, and this would include working together on Britain's entry to European Monetary Union.

Further areas allowing co- operation in this Parliament were unlikely, but he added: "We should not rule out the possibility."

In persuading Mr Foster to stand down from the race, there were hints that the joint cabinet committee on constitutional affairs should be widened, possibly to include nursery education.

Mr Foster, the strongest of the candidates in support of closer co-operation, said he had received "firm assurances" from Mr Kennedy about continuing co-operation before deciding to pull out and back him. Other MPs favouring co- operation, including Menzies Campbell, are also supporting the Kennedy campaign, but in recent hustings meetings Mr Kennedy has insisted that he would not extend further cooperation before the next general election.

Mr Hughes, MP for Southwark North and Bermondsey, exploited the apparent inconsistencies in the Kennedy campaign last week by challenging his main rival to clarify his policy over closer links with New Labour.

He coupled it with a warning to the party "grandees" that they risked alienating the party. "We've seen key establishments figures - a colleague described them as the party mafia - anoint their chosen candidate in the hope that he will pursue close relationships with Labour," Mr Hughes told a party meeting.

Mr Hughes's campaigners believe the race is now too close to call, with their man likely to get 49 per cent to Mr Kennedy's 51 per cent. He would hope to pick up most of the votes of Ms Ballard and David Rendel on second preference but the outcome in the single transferable vote may depend on where the votes of Malcolm Bruce are redistributed.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
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