Friday, January 15, 1999 Published at 09:40 GMT
Blair 'lacks authority for Lib-Lab ties'
Labour and the Lib Dems will now co-operate more on defence policy
The prime minister's co-operation with the Liberal Democrats did not have party authority and would only work with "willing troops", a Labour backbencher has warned.
His comments follow Thursday's announcement that Labour and the Lib Dems would extend their co-operation on constitutional issues to cover common European and security policy.
Mr Prentice denied his sentiments were out of touch, saying: "The fact is we're being led by on this issue the prime minister.
The Lib Dems had a completely separate agenda to Labour, said Mr Prentice, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
The prime minister should declare if he did have an agenda to realign UK politics and move into a coalition with the Lib Dems, Mr Prentice said.
"We have an enormous Parliamentary Labour Party, we have a majority of 179. If Tony wants to speak to Menzies Campbell or Paddy Ashdown he can have a chat with them over a cup of tea in the tearoom.
"We don't need to co-opt the Liberal Democrats into the machinery of the state, so that people like Menzies Campbell have access to classified material which is denied to people like me - after all I'm only a government backbencher."
But Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, ruled out any prospect of coalition with the government.
This is a "single and discreet issue", he told the Today programme.
Mr Campbell said: "It seems to me that if both parties can agree on something that is so substantially in the interests of the people of the United Kingdom, it makes no sense not to take these matters forward in the way we have agreed."
The co-operation would lead to a high quality of decisions, he added.
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