Lord Razzall: 'We will be the next government'

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Indy Politics

The Liberal Democrats will form the first government after Labour loses power, one of the party's general election strategists predicted yesterday.

The Liberal Democrats will form the first government after Labour loses power, one of the party's general election strategists predicted yesterday.

Lord Tim Razzall, a close aide to Charles Kennedy, told activists that the Conservatives were "finished as a serious challengers for government in our adult lifetime" as delegates gave overwhelming backing to the pre-election policy document.

Lord Razzall said: "I am not going to make the mistake of a former Liberal leader over 20 years ago and tell you to go back to your constituencies and prepare for government ... But I will tell you this: when John Prescott so memorably said earlier in the year that the tectonic plates were shifting he was right, but not in the way he meant it."

He said: "There will come a moment, and that moment may be sooner than we think, when the British public finally loses faith in this Labour government. And when that happens ... the next government of this country will not be a Conservative government, it will be a Liberal Democrat government and Charles Kennedy will be Prime Minister."

Matthew Taylor, chairman of the parliamentary Liberal Democrats, said the Conservatives were on the retreat. He told the conference: "Natural territory for the Conservatives now means just a few English shires, but for the Liberal Democrats natural territory means the British people."

Delegates forced an amendment to the pre-manifesto shoring up a commitment to keeping the NHS free at the point of use after a row over proposals by party modernisers to replace the NHS with a system of social insurance. Alex Wilcock, vice-chairman of the federal policy committee, condemned the proposals in the Orange Book, a volume of essays by figures on the right of the party. He said: "It's not the first time something has been marketed as orange but you've been sold a lemon."

But delegates inflicted a defeat on the leadership as they threw out the party's commitment to city academies and specialist schools. Delegates passed an amendment deleting references to the specialist schools after forcing a card vote. But Phil Willis, the education spokesman, said: "I would have preferred people to recognise the reality of specialist schools and academies. There would be no question whatsoever of a Liberal Democrat government closing them."

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