Charles Kennedy yesterday ruled out propping up a minority Labour Government if the Liberal Democrats hold the balance of power after the next general election.
After acrimonious by-elections in which the parties traded insults, Mr Kennedy's insistence that he will not do a deal with Tony Blair bring relations between their parties to a new low.
They are in striking contrast to relations under Mr Kennedy's predecessor, Paddy Ashdown, who was willing to join a Blair Cabinet and under whom leading colleagues sat on a joint Labour-Liberal Democrat cabinet committee.
Mr Kennedy urged his party to approach the election, expected next spring, with greater ambition than in previous contests. He argued that the party was now receiving about a quarter of the vote in polls, putting it in a good position to achieve a breakthrough.
"If we go into the next election, as I hope we will, on 24 to 25 per cent, the sky's the limit," Mr Kennedy told BBC1's Breakfast With Frost.
Asked whether there could be a repeat of the informal "Lib-Lab pact" which sustained James Callaghan's government in the 1970s, he said: "No, no pacts, no deals. That is history, absolutely."
He also dismissed the prospect of putting the Conservatives into power in the event of a hung parliament. "What I am saying is quite straightforward: if the outcome of the next general election is inconclusive, the Liberal Democrats will carry on being an independent political force."
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