Lib Dems in drive to spread the word Lib-Dem roadshow

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Indy Politics
Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, will next month embark on a round-Britain tour in a bid to raise his party's profile in the run-up to the next election, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

The visits to 12 Liberal Democrat target areas, including the West Country, Liverpool, Sheffield, Tyneside and Edinburgh, follow private polling in the regions showing government popularity at rock bottom.

But the research also showed that while people felt betrayed and let down, they also felt nervous about change.

Mr Ashdown will use the inaugural Liberal Democrat News lecture next Monday to issue a rallying call for pluralism, arguing that the Opposition has a responsibility not only to bring about the defeat of a discredited government, but to build "consensus" about the nature of the alternative and ensure it is long lasting.

It will be the second time Mr Ashdown has taken his cause away from Westminster to the country. But this year's series of meetings and discussions, under the rubric "Britain's people; Britain's future" and planned to run until the autumn, are intended to be far more in-depth than the 1993 tour resulting in the book Beyond Westminster.

The Labour leader, Tony Blair, is conducting a similar exercise. The party hopes to attract 1,200 people to a meeting in Derby on Thursday. A business breakfast in the east Midlands is planned for Friday, followed by a meeting with parents.