Kennedy rules out entering power-share in Commons

By Peter Macmahon
Published April 30th 2005 in

CHARLES Kennedy, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, last night categorically ruled out entering a coalition at Westminster with either Labour or the Tories.

And Mr Kennedy dismissed reports that he was considering sharing power with Gordon Brown, if the Chancellor were to replace Tony Blair.

Speaking to The Scotsman during a campaign visit to Milngavie, Mr Kennedy said there was a significant difference between Holyrood, where his party shares power with Labour, and Westminster.

He said: "If we had a system of proportional representation for electing the House of Commons it would be a whole different ball game because the voting system in Scotland, with the large element of PR, recognises the unmistakable fact that no party speaks for an outright majority - we are all competing minorities: the voting system for Westminster does not.

"The other difference is that Tony Blair did not need to have an election now, he could have gone for another year. He had a three-figures majority which is not in peril. There is no national crisis that has generated the election.

"If he were to emerge this time next week having started with that level of parliamentary majority having lost his overall majority, that would be a massive vote of no confidence in him and his government.

"To suppose, for one moment, us having campaigned as an independent party, that we would provide some kind of ballast for a discredited government, would be absolutely ridiculous. We’d be letting down all the people that voted for us."

Asked about reports that he might do a deal with Mr Brown, Mr Kennedy said this were "not true".

He added: "I don’t make my judgment calls on these things on who may or may not be the leader of another party at any given moment."

Reinforcing his point, Mr Kennedy said the Liberal Democrat strategy had remained unaltered through the time of three Tory leaders. He said he would not go into coalition with anybody - "not on my watch" he stressed.

Meanwhile Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP deputy leader, launched a sustained attack on the Liberal Democrats’ record in Scotland’s coalition government, branding them "a bunch of con artists".

Ms Sturgeon said the Lib Dems had not delivered their promises and argued that only a vote for the SNP would "make Scotland matter" at Westminster.

Also on the campaign trail in Scotland was Owen Paterson, the shadow fisheries minister. He claimed even Labour had admitted skippers had been left "devastated" by Europe’s quota-based common fisheries policy.

Mr Paterson renewed his party’s pledge to pull Britain out of the CFP and return to a system of local and national management.

He said: "There’s not going to be a UKIP government, and there’s not going to be an SNP government. With a Labour or Lib-Lab government, Scotland gets more CFP, with a Conservative government, Scotland gets out of the CFP."