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Wednesday, May 5, 1999 Published at 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK

Prescott rejects Scots Lib-Lab 'prattle'

John Prescott: Dislikes closeness with Lib-Dems

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has dismissed as "press prattle" speculation that Labour is set to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament.

John Prescott speaks to John Humphrys: "We are fighting to win"
His attack on the coalition speculation followed newspaper reports that Labour was planning to offer the Lib Dems two "cabinet" posts in the new Scottish Parliament executive.

A new Scotsman/ICM survey suggests that Labour has 42% support and the SNP 30% in the constituency vote, with the Tories on 14% and the Liberal Democrats on 12.

In the regional, vote, Labour is on 41%, the SNP 30, the Tories 14, and the Liberal Democrats 10.

This would give Labour 58 seats, the SNP 40, the Tories 17 and the Lib-Dems 12.

[ image: John Prescott campaigns with Donald Dewar]
John Prescott campaigns with Donald Dewar
Speaking on the final day of campaigning before Thursday's Scottish, Welsh and local elections, Mr Prescott insisted: "We are not here for coalitions, we are here to win."

Labour would be fighting the Liberal Democrats for seats in local council elections across the UK, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The deputy prime minister, who is also deputy Labour leader, is the most prominent opponent within Labour of closer co-operation between his party and the Lib Dems.

He is also a firm opponent of proportional representation (PR) - the electoral system which is expected to deliver a coalition administration in Scotland.

"I can assure you it's not the idea of the Labour Party to be cosy with the Liberals," Mr Prescott said. "You know I'm not a Lib-Lab fan."

[ image: Scots Lib Dem leader Jim Wallace wants cabinet ministers]
Scots Lib Dem leader Jim Wallace wants cabinet ministers
Asked if he would maintain his opposition even though the two parties had in recent years been engaged in a process of forming closer links, he said: "I've always said I'm not keen on that ... but let's see what happens.

"There's an electorate here, you know. They're not something on the sidelines."

He also opposed suggestions that PR should be extended to local council elections. "Frankly, I'm not in favour of any extension of PR."

The idea of extending PR to local elections has often been raised as a possible solution to boosting voter turn-out. At the last large-scale local elections, fewer than a third of voters took part.

Mr Prescott said he hoped Thursday's turn-out would be good, "but I'm not too hopeful".

The deputy prime minister also appeared to confirm reports that Labour would be proposing a wholly unelected second chamber to replace the House of Lords.

"What we're very keen about in a reformed House of Lords is that no one political party should have an overall majority," he said. "Indeed what we want to see is that the new chamber should represent the whole nation."

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