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EDITIONS
Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Conference 'pivotal moment'
Charles Kennedy
Kennedy speech delighted conference

Charles Kennedy was hailed as a prime minister in waiting as Liberal Democrats described his end of conference speech as an overwhelming success.

Delegates said Mr Kennedy's suggestion that they were on the verge of challenging the Tories as the main opposition party had put a long-awaited spring in their step.

I think we will look back ... and this will be a pivotal moment in the history of the party

Dave Smithson
Mr Kennedy's more cautious approach towards military action against Iraq had also cheered the party faithful, they said.

Dave Smithson, deputy leader of the Lib Dems on Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, said: "I think we will look back in five to seven years time and this will be a pivotal moment in the history of the party.

"It has been an excellent conference, particularly at a time when politics, through the issues of Iraq, is more in people's minds than possibly at the general election last year.

"I think the position that we have taken as a party is fundamentally the right one and is in tune with public opinion.

"The lines between the Tory party and New Labour are blurred. We offer a very credible alternative and more people are recognising that."

'Future government'

Mr Smithson, 43, a press and public affairs consultant who failed to win Knowsley in the 2001 election, said the public should be taking notice of Lib Dems successes with the introduction of free care for the elderly in Scotland and the scrapping of tuition fees.

Housewife and MS sufferer Anne Diamond, 48, chairwoman of the Harrow Association for the Disabled, said she was pleased with the debate on public services.

Dave Smithson
Dave Smithson: "Excellent conference"
"I believe that some of our policies and fresh ideas will be a good way forward for a future government.

"I felt our debate on abuse of the elderly was a long time coming. We know there is abuse going on and it is about time the government realised that more money ought to be put into services for old people.

"As a disabled person, I look to the Lib Dems to have a more equal society towards the disabled."

'Trampling roughshod'

Philip James, 44, a salesman in the space and defence industry, said he was very pleased that a motion was approved to support the people of Gibraltar.

"The Labour government, for its own agenda and reasons, is trampling roughshod over the wishes of 30,0000 people who live on the rock."

Anne Diamond
Anne Diamond: "We have fresh ideas"
He thought the message from the conference should be: "Cut out the middle man - don't have a Labour government to implement Liberal Democrat policies, put the Lib Dems into power.

"I think the party could be in government in eight years. It is achievable.

"It takes time to build the infrastructure and credibility with the public - a lot more time than it takes to destroy it like we have seen with the Conservatives."

Chris Gee, 25, campaigns manager for MP David Rendel and a member of the Liberal Democrats youth wing (LDYS), said: "I think people are in great spirits and will go home and campaign hard to replace the Tories as the effective opposition to Labour."

Philip James
Philip James: Gibraltar message
Judith Cunliffe-Jones, from Westbury, said: "Our party takes more of an opposition line than the Conservatives in Parliament.

"I think Charles Kennedy is a very capable leader. He is well respected in the polls.

"I see no reason why he shouldn't get to number 10. It might be a way in the future, but if the electorate can be persuaded that we are a credible alternative government, then there is no reason why we should not be elected."

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"Charles Kennedy's closing speech will be an all out assault on the Conservatives"

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26 Sep 02 | Politics
25 Sep 02 | Politics
23 Sep 02 | Politics
22 Sep 02 | Politics
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