Kennedy says: 'We've got it right'

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Indy Politics

Charles Kennedy is to make Britain's support for the European Union a central theme in the run-up to the general election after winning two extra seats in the Euro-elections.

Charles Kennedy is to make Britain's support for the European Union a central theme in the run-up to the general election after winning two extra seats in the Euro-elections.

The Liberal Democrat leader believes the gains were "a vindication of the party's pro-European stance" and showed the British people were not overwhelmingly Eurosceptic.

The Liberal Democrats gained two new MEPs, including their first seat in the North-east of England and the election of their first ethnic minority Parliamentarian, Saj Karim, in the North-west.

They also held on to their 10 sitting MEPs, even though their share of the vote slipped behind that of UKIP.

Yesterday Mr Kennedy's spokesman said the result showed that the next election would be defined by "three- party politics" and that the Liberal Democrats could make electoral gains. Mr Kennedy said the elections had been "a disaster" for the Tories, who he said were "rapidly becoming redundant in European politics".

In the local elections, the Liberal Democrats made inroads into Labour's urban heartlands in the North. The party drove the Labour Party into third place and gained control of Newcastle council, which had been held by Labour for 30 years.

But the Liberal Democrat performance was marred by the elections to be London Mayor, where Simon Hughes polled little more than 15 per cent of the vote and trailed in third place.

Yesterday party sources said that they were disappointed by the London result and thought the campaign failed to mobilise the true extent of Liberal Democrat support in the capital.

But Mr Hughes, who is considered one of the Liberal Democrats' parliamentary stars, is expected to return to centre stage. Although he was forced to give up his home affairs job, he will remain a member of the party's front bench in a high-profile role.

He is also believed to be considering whether to run as party president against Lembit Opik, the Welsh MP.

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