Liberal Democrat MP sees path to a pact with Labour

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Indy Politics
THE Liberal Democrats should talk to Labour with a view to a temporary coalition after the next election if the Labour Party has moved far enough on electoral reform and other issues, Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat MP, said yesterday.

In a booklet, Pathways to Power, Mr Hughes ruled out pacts or deals with Labour or the Tories before the next general election. He argued that formal co-operation with Labour would be worthwhile 'only if it would deliver the speedy enactment of legislation that changed the political system - and included proportional representation'.

The publication comes as the Liberal Democrats said members had backed Paddy Ashdown's suggestion of closer dialogue with Labour and other parties by a margin of 40 to 1. A far smaller majority, two to one, of the 4,500 members who responded to Mr Ashdown's call for comment agreed that a formal national pact with Labour was not the way forward.

With some members threatening to resign over suggestions of a dialogue with Labour, the issue is set for fierce debate at the party's annual conference which begins in Harrogate tomorrow.

Mr Hughes said Liberal Democrats faced the reality that they could not change the political system without gaining a majority for that. If Labour had moved sufficiently in the Liberal Democrats' direction, crucially on electoral reform, but also away from socialism, state corporatism and traditional union links, co-operation after an election would be possible to change the system.

Dialogue should be encouraged at individual and group level rather than among party leaders to help Labour make changes and bring the parties closer on areas other than those where there was already a fair measure of agreement - on education and the environment, for example.