Letter: Editing out the Lib Dems

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The Independent Online
Sir: In your report today of a National Opinion Poll, you have edited out the Liberal Democrats from the questions asking which party we trust to make the right decisions and who would make the best leader. You have thus edited out the views of one in five of voters, and probably of something between one in four and one in three of your readers. Similarly, in your leading article 'Fighting friends on Tory beaches', you discuss the Government's predicament as if Labour were the only alternative.

This is unwise on electoral grounds. There are well over 200 seats in which Labour cannot mount a challenge, and the Conservatives can face defeat only if Liberal Democrats are successful. It will therefore be very hard for the Conservatives to lose power unless both opposition parties are successful, and the proportions in which they are successful will do a great deal to determine the character and outlook of the next non- Conservative government.

It is also unwise of you on ideological grounds. The Liberal Democrats make a very different ideological challenge to the Conservatives from Labour, and both deserve discussion. We think one of the worst things wrong in Britain is the excessive power of the executive, as the poll tax and the Child Support Act illustrate. We are not convinced that Labour is yet prepared to give more than lip-service to the need for change in this area.

We are not a sectional or class party. We are not tempted to use 'profit' as a dirty word and do not share the tendency of both Labour and Conservative to treat relations between the two sides of industry as a zero-sum game, in which what is good for one side must be bad for the other.

Your paper has hitherto treated us much more fairly than most of your rivals. We hope this policy will continue. If it should not, you would be missing a great deal of the most constructive political thinking going on in the country.

Yours sincerely,

RUSSELL

House of Lords

London, SW1

23 April

The writer is Liberal Democrat spokesman on social security in the House of Lords.

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