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Last Updated: Monday, 19 December 2005, 15:32 GMT
Kennedy attacks Tory green claims
Liberal Democrats leader Charles Kennedy
Mr Kennedy says Cameron 'sounds opportunistic and superficial'
Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy has used a key speech on the environment to attack Conservative leader David Cameron's green credentials.

He was reacting to Mr Cameron's call for Lib Dems to defect to the Tories.

Mr Cameron said the two parties were on the same side over policies such as Iraq and green issues.

But Mr Kennedy, whose leadership style has been questioned by some MPs, says the parties "diverge radically" on environmental policy.

'Opportunistic'

Last week Mr Cameron said the Conservatives stood for "liberal values", including a commitment to green policies, localism and deregulation.

But in his speech, entitled "The Politics of Climate Change in Britain", Mr Kennedy accused the Tories of being "jonny-come-latelys to the green agenda".

The reality is the Liberal Democrats diverge radically from the Conservatives on environmental policy
Charles Kennedy

"We would welcome a Conservative conversion to the cause, but at the moment it looks and sounds opportunistic and superficial," he said.

The Lib Dem leader said he had tried to get all three major political parties to stand on a common environmental platform.

But he claimed the prime minister had "dismissed this out of hand".

He conceded that the Tories had begun "to take up the challenge" with the Lib Dems' Norman Baker working with Oliver Letwin to "see how far consensus could be achieved".

'Old-fashioned'

However, Mr Kennedy stressed: "The reality is the Liberal Democrats diverge radically from the Conservatives on environmental policy, so it has not been an easy process."

He said the Tories were "pro-nuclear" and "simply not credible on the environment".

"The new leader David Cameron used his acceptance speech to call for a major new road building programme," he said.

"This suggests that Cameron remains wedded to the old-fashioned thinking that ignores the root of the problem.

"Take David Cameron's speech on Friday. He made claims on the environment but carefully avoided any specifics," said Mr Kennedy.

'Enormous challenge'

"At the moment, without any substance to speak of, Cameron is merely relying on the spin that has blackened Tony Blair's reputation.

"It would appear that David Cameron has learned all the wrong lessons from New Labour and looks set to repeat their mistakes."

Mr Kennedy said he wanted all three parties to take on the challenge of climate change. "But the experience so far has been disappointing," he said.

"The Conservatives must recognise the enormous challenge they face in turning themselves around. We need concrete policy changes from the, not empty slogans."

Mr Kennedy also used his speech to turn his fire on Labour, claiming that in government the party had been "an environmental failure".

'Nuclear tax'?

He accused Mr Blair of failing to "grasp the urgency" of the impact climate change was having on the world.

He described the government's latest energy review as merely a "political mechanism to bring forward Tony Blair's determination to invest in a new generation of nuclear power stations".

"Nuclear power has proved itself to be grossly expensive, environmentally disastrous and an unacceptable drain on the public purse," he said.

"British taxpayers are currently facing a 56bn bill just to clear up the nuclear waste we already have - equivalent to a bill of over 800 for every person in the UK."

He said if private industry cannot pay and Chancellor Gordon Brown will not, "it is likely we'll end up with a new nuclear tax on our fuel bills".

'Out of touch' party

Mr Kennedy argued the case for "green cities" and "green communities" with local people taking responsibility for local pollution.

His speech came as Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats' Europe spokesman, warned his party to "move on" or "risk appearing tired and out of touch".

In an article for the Evening Standard, Mr Clegg said: "Intellectual leadership is required, and fast. A failure to move with the times will be fatal to the party, regardless of who is leader."


SEE ALSO:
Kennedy gets support from deputy
15 Dec 05 |  Politics
Profile: Charles Kennedy
14 Dec 05 |  Politics
The Lib Dem leadership options
15 Dec 05 |  Politics
Kennedy 'not worried by Cameron'
08 Dec 05 |  Politics


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