Letter: Lib Dems must seize their chance

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The Independent Online
Sir: The danger of Paddy Ashdown entering a coalition with Tony Blair is that the Liberal Democrats could face the same decline into irrelevance as the Free Democrats in Germany. The electorate would always blame a small partner for mistakes while handing the credit for success to a larger one. Further, there could be a loss of members who joined the party because it is distinctive - a radical party which has none of the nanny-state baggage of Labour or the Tories' materialistic fear.

Liz Lynne is right to issue a caution. Where she is mistaken is to see the talks over constitutional reform as an indicator of softness towards Labour. In all its incarnations since the 17th century the Liberal Democrat Party has regarded such reform as its principal objective. It was born out of opposition to the concentration of power in Charles II's Tory Cabal and it stands now for modernisation of the means of government, both at home and across Europe. If agreement to reform cannot be reached with the most likely incoming government after two decades of constitutional standstill a great opportunity will have been lost.