Letter: Lib Dems must seize their chance

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The Independent Online
Sir: I hope Paddy Ashdown and his leadership colleagues give short shrift to the letter from Elizabeth Lynne MP and her friends ("Liberals revolt over coalition fear", 23 November). They are simply not keeping their eyes on the ball.

Liberal Democrat aims at present are

a) to ensure that new Labour and Liberal Democrats, together but as separate entities, win the next election with the strength to hold their combined majority through an entire parliament - Tories out for at least long enough to repair the worst damage they have inflicted on this nation; and

b) recognising that new Labour will be the stronger part of that majority, to achieve a position of influence on the new government by agreeing now upon a minimum programme of priority policies - principally reform of Parliament and of the electoral process.

These aims will require, on both sides, compromise and commitment They should not require sacrifice of principle, but will certainly involve, for both parties, deferment of important but secondary objectives. Acceptance of office under a Labour prime minister is not necessarily part of those aims, but may be appropriate if the scope of the policy programme justifies it, and Labour dependence on Liberal Democrat support in the House is significant.

Lib Dems should support the idea of coalition politics, and help the electorate to accept it enthusiastically in place of the confrontational politics which have failed us all. And Lib Dem MPs need ministerial experience; they should not shy away from responsibility.

It is time Elizabeth Lynne and her like put aside prejudices built of parish-pump politics. Support in the country for the Ashdown line on co- operation with new Labour is greater than they think.

JOHN SANDERS

Bideford, Devon

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