Letter: A party to defend the weak

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The Independent Online
Your leading article "Cold outside the big tent" (13 October) will have touched a chord with many readers. It is onlymonths since Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security, claimed that there was no poverty in Britain, despite plentiful evidence to the contrary, and the Government's belated attempts to claim that they are working for the interests of all Britons, including the deprived, are grotesque.

I agree that both New Labour and the Conservatives are unwilling to address this honestly and openly. But you accused all parties of operating according to the New Labour maxim, "thou shalt not frighten the electorate". This the day after Peter Thurnham MP joined the Liberal Democrats, citing among his reasons our party's robust defence of the disadvantaged, demonstrating there is a party determined to force uncomfortable realities on to the agenda.

One of the main justifications for government of any kind is to protect the weak from the strong, and the Liberal Democrats have not forgotten that obligation (part of the reason why I joined). The commitment to work for a society "in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity" appears on every membership card. Moreover, at our conference in Brighton, Paddy Ashdown made it clear that the party had a duty to speak up for the voiceless, and to represent the interests of the dispossessed, to which many applauded outside the conference centre as well as within the delegates' hall.

Emma Nicholson MP

House of Commons

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