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Thursday, January 14, 1999 Published at 09:14 GMT

UK Politics

New phase in Lib-Lab deal

Ashdown and Blair: Partnership announced last November

Labour and the Liberal Democrats are expected to announce the next phase of their growing collaboration on Thursday.

The BBC's Emma Udwin: "Dissent has become more open"
A joint Cabinet committee meeting is likely to see the government and Paddy Ashdown's party agree a new strategy on foreign and security issues within Europe.

The move will anger critics in both parties, many of whom disapprove of the November statement pledging closer ties on areas where the two parties broadly agree.

But Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling said there would be no secret deals with the Lib Dems.

'Stop tribal politics'

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Members of the public expect that where politicians of a different party agree on a course of action then that is something we ought to encourage.

Alistair Darling: "No secret deals whatsoever"
"If you take an area of my own field, pensions policy for example - pensions are something that has to endure for 40 or 50 years.

"There's an awful lot to be said of trying to build a consensus, not just with the Liberals but across the political spectrum as to how the pension system ought to be structured."

Most people did not want to see tribal politics, said Mr Darling.

"Of course the Labour Party, the Liberals and Tories have their differences, will fight each other at elections, local and national, and so on.

"But where there is room for agreement, whether it is on security matters or constitutional matters or whatever it is, then that is something the vast majority of our backbenchers and our party, the Labour Party, actually think is a good idea."

There had been speculation the plan might be scaled down after the resignation of former Trade Secretary Peter Mandelson, a key link in the burgeoning alliance between the parties.

The announcement will come hours after Mr Blair makes a speech to mark the 10th anniversary of the Institute for Public Policy Research, where he is expected to push his "third way" philosophy in another attempt to put policies, rather than scandal, back in the headlines.

Union blast

Thursday's committee meeting comes as Labour's plans to work with the Lib Dems attract fresh criticism.

Writing in Tribune magazine, the General Secretary of AEEU union, Ken Jackson, launched a strong attack on Labour's modernisation and moves towards cross-party co-operation.

He said: "Modernisation is not the same as ditching the Labour Party. Yet that is what some people seem to think it means. They would rather have a middle-class army of technocrats than a party of working people.

"They would rather merge with the Liberal Democrats than keep the link with the unions.

"They believe that modernisation would not be complete until the last pillars of Labour have been smashed to pieces."

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