Kennedy calls Lib Dem candidates for conference on party's message

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Charles Kennedy has summoned more than 100 candidates in marginal seats to a weekend briefing designed to sharpen the party's message and prepare them for the next general election.

Charles Kennedy has summoned more than 100 candidates in marginal seats to a weekend briefing designed to sharpen the party's message and prepare them for the next general election.

Mr Kennedy and his front-bench team are briefing candidates and activists during the two-day meeting at a conference centre outside Cambridge. Party analysts will be discussing election strategy and their policy documents to be launched next week.

Commentators have poked fun at Conservative get-togethers, with front-benchers going casual and wearing woolly jumpers. Mr Kennedy's get-together, too, will be strictly casual. But senior Liberal Democrat sources said this weekend's event would also be a time for serious strategy talks ahead of the party conference. Mr Kennedy will address candidates at two dinners and hold private election strategy sessions with senior advisers.

One source said: "I don't think Liberal Democrats wear woolly sweaters. Our candidates are young and trendy. You won't see any beards and sandals this weekend."

The party launched a major offensive with the launch of its pensions policy this week and launches of more proposals planned before the three-day annual conference at ournemouth, starting on 19 September.

Mr Kennedy said: "The Liberal Democrats enter this new political year, gaining in strength, up in the polls and with a popular and affordable programme for Britain.

"In Brent East, in Leicester South and now in Hartlepool, people are turning to the Liberal Democrats for answers. Over Iraq, on tuition fees, on the council tax, on pensions, on our public services, it is the Liberal Democrat approach that strikes a chord with people.

"I am determined, between now and the general election, that we take our message of freedom, fairness and trust to the people of Britain."

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