Elections 1994: Labour condemns Lib Dems' record

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LABOUR has identified the Liberal Democrats as the main challenger to its urban strongholds in next month's local elections, writes Martin Whitfield.

Presenting a 22-page dossier of supposed Liberal Democrat failures, Jack Straw, Labour's environment spokesman, said the Conservatives had ceased to be a relevant force in inner cities. 'The reality is that in many urban areas the Tories have been wiped out and the Liberal Democrats have come in and filled the vacuum.'

Labour's dominance of city councils is demonstrated by the fact that it is defending 80 per cent of all seats up for election in metropolitan districts outside London on 5 May.

Charles Kennedy, president of the Liberal Democrats, maintained the party would win seats from Labour in its northern heartlands when he launched the party's local elections campaign on Thursday.

Mr Straw derided claims by Mr Kennedy that the Liberal Democrats had a 'good story to tell' from their management of seven major spending councils under their control. 'Three of these have among the worst record of nursery provision in the country,' he said. 'They pose as the party of education, but in power they often let parents down.' He repeated Tory charges that Liberal Democrats said different things in different areas. 'The national party led by Paddy Ashdown is often well-meaning. The other, more sinister, side is the party in each local area - the one that plays dirty, the one that is inconsistent, the one that lets you down when it has a hand on power.'