Letter: What the Lib Dems need from Labour

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What the Lib Dems need from Labour

Sir: John Rentoul ("Blair to come out for voting reform", 11 November) should not get too excited. The sort of practical co-operation he describes between Liberal Democrats and Labour is a sensible means to the efficient conduct of business and happens between more parties and at more times than the public is ever likely to be told about.

At present the muffled drumbeat of Labour retreats on such issues as devolution, a Bill of Rights, minimum sentences, and now the Social Chapter, is doing nothing to encourage Liberal Democrats to make that collaboration any closer. As a party we do not regard the Alternative Vote as a proportional system and it is unlikely that any Labour commitment to it would change our inclinations.

Our position remains as stated by Paddy Ashdown at Brighton: "Nothing ruled in and nothing ruled out." As to how we might apply that position, Shirley Williams at Brighton said that our bare minimum terms for closer co-operation should be a fully proportional system of voting and a massive increase in funding for education. The electric enthusiasm which greeted that remark is something from which Tony Blair should take warning.

Earl RUSSELL

(Liberal Democrat Social Security Spokesperson)

House of Lords

London SW1

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