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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
Musing the Middle East

Drinkers at The Hop Poles pub in Brighton give their views on politics, Iraq and the Liberal Democrats gathering down the road.

According to student Rebecca Scroggs, the Liberal Democrats need to mount a huge PR campaign to enlighten people about their policies.

Anyway, people find Charles Kennedy's drinking habits more interesting

William Guard
The 20 year old says, in her opinion, the party should be aiming towards becoming the official opposition, filling the gap between "hard right" Tories and left of centre Labour.

But, she concedes, this is an unlikely goal as she think few people know what they represent.

Miss Scroggs, a drama student at Sussex University, was enjoying a drink with her boyfriend William Guard on Tuesday, when BBC News Online bumped into her at The Hop Poles - venue of our Alternative Conference.

She argued that the Lib Dems should be exploiting the "middle ground" between the two major parties.

Happy outcome

"The problem with the Liberal Democrats is they seem very ineffective, but I believe they should be aiming at opposition status," said Miss Scroggs.

"I would be very happy in a country that had a Labour government and a Lib Dems opposition.

Alex Murray
Questions evidence in the Iraq dossier
"One thing they do is clarify what they are about. A massive PR campaign would make sure everyone in the country could sum up in three sentences what they represent."

Mr Guard, a 20 year old law student at Sussex University, said: "If you did a survey of 18 to 24 year olds, about 50% of them wouldn't know who the Liberal Democrat leader was.

"Anyway, people find Charles Kennedy's drinking habits more interesting."

'Sabre rattling'

Meanwhile, fellow student Chris Assal, 22, told BBC News Online of his fears about the prospect of war with Iraq.

Many Lib Dems MPs abandoned their conference on Tuesday to take part in the House of Commons debate that followed publication of a dossier of alleged evidence against Saddam Hussein.

Chris Assal
Concerned about his family in Lebanon
Mr Assal's whole family has just returned home to Lebanon and he claims sabre-rattling by Mr Blair and US President George Bush is making him nervous.

He said reports from his uncle who was a UN humanitarian observer in Iraq in 1998 before the weapons inspectors departed, left him unconvinced that Saddam had the quantity of chemical weapons suggested.

"My uncle said Iraq did not have as many chemical weapons as people had thought," said Mr Assal, a student in hospitality and management at Brighton University.

"I think Britain and America should be a little less keen to attack Iraq. I think it could destabilise the whole area.

"My family have just returned to Lebanon and I am quite worried about what could happen to them."

'Innocent victims'

Alex Murray, 23, The Hop Poles manager, said he could not understand how evidence about Iraq had been obtained without the assistance of up to date weapons inspections.

"There is no justification at all for attacking Iraq," he said.

"It wouldn't be a just war. It would be killing innocent people just because they have a dictator who is feared by the west."

William Guard and Rebecca Scroggs
The Lib Dems need to explain their policies, says Rebecca Scroggs
Back to matters Liberal Democrat, Chris Felton, 31, a public affairs manager for Universities UK, said he believed the conference should be debating funding for education.

"The more the government becomes aware that higher education is important, the more likely that universities get the investment that they need," he said.

Mr Felton argued that tuition fees were not putting off young people from higher education - high costs of living were.

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See also:

23 Sep 02 | Politics
24 Sep 02 | Politics
23 Sep 02 | Politics
23 Sep 02 | Politics
22 Sep 02 | Politics

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