Kennedy's speech will be appeal to disaffected Tories

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Indy Politics

Charles Kennedy will make a direct appeal to disaffected "One Nation" Tories today in a keynote speech aimed at reassuring voters that the Liberal Democrats have not lurched to the left of Labour.

Charles Kennedy will make a direct appeal to disaffected "One Nation" Tories today in a keynote speech aimed at reassuring voters that the Liberal Democrats have not lurched to the left of Labour.

Mr Kennedy will use the final day of his party's conference in Bournemouth to stress its "freedom" agenda and policies designed to reduce the role of the state in people's lives.

Boosted by opinion polls giving the Liberal Democrats their highest rating in years, he will make a personal plea to Tory voters unhappy with William Hague's increasingly hardline platform.

The Liberal Democrat leader, who has been stung by accusations that his taxation proposals will scare off such voters, will make clear that he rejects the old-fashioned "tax and spend" approach of the left.

Senior figures within the party have urged Mr Kennedy in recent days to clarify the plans in its pre-manifesto document, amid fears they could cost it seats in Tory heartlands in the South and South-west.

Mr Kennedy will stress that he would let "the people's priorities" determine policy and emphasise that tax rises would be clearly directed to specific spending rises. The premanifesto pledges to fund education improvements by putting 1p on the basic income tax rate, fund pensions increases by creating a new 50p tax band on income above £100,000, and fund extra doctors and nurses through hypothecated rises in cigarette duty.

The Liberal Democrat leader will stress that the 50p "super-rich" tax rate is a just way of helping some of Britain's poorest pensioners. He will also point out that even Margaret Thatcher oversaw a 60p tax rate for higher earners.

However, Mr Kennedy's main appeal will be directed at One Nation Tories upset by their party's Euroscepticism and views on asylum and immigration. "I want to address the millions of previous Conservative voters who feel that William Hague's party offers them nothing," he will say.

"I share many of the values, beliefs and concerns of people who used to be called One Nation Conservatives: tolerance, decency and fair play. If you believe in those things and you look at your party and it's not got room any more at the top table for the likes of Ken Clarke, Michael Heseltine and Chris Patten, then your party's got no room for you.

"You have friends in the Liberal Democrats, you have a home, come and talk to us, you will be very, very welcome."

Mr Kennedy will also stress that his personal political credo is pro-freedom and will attempt to reclaim the idea of liberty from the Conservatives.

"The manifesto will also show in every chapter where government must do less to give people more freedom. Government must not judge individual morality," he will say.

"We would scrap a range of regulations that burden small business, we will cut bureaucracy in schools and we will let people, not politicians, decide how some of their tax revenues are spent. Every party taxes and spends, but our priorities are the people's priorities, that's what freedom means. It's not left of Labour, it's not right of Labour, it's ahead of Labour. It's about honesty. Where there's a cost, we will say how we will pay for it."

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