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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 November, 2003, 17:37 GMT
Voters 'despairing' of New Labour
The Lib Dem leader attacked
Disappointment in the government is turning into a sense of despair, said Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy.

He claimed the Queen's Speech offered nothing to all the UK citizens that felt let down by the lack of ambition in New Labour policies.

He said Tony Blair's second term had been short on delivery.

"An awful lot of what we heard in the gracious speech will simply pass the vast majority of our citizens by," he told MPs.


Responding to the unveiling of the government's agenda for the next parliamentary session, Mr Kennedy went on to attack the potential impact that top-up fees would have on student debt.

He also bemoaned what he described as a lack of policies to protect the environment.

And he said that, as the leader of the Liberal Democrats, he would have liked to see a "bigger dose of liberalism" in the government's policies.

"Indeed there's a danger on certain issues that this government is displaying even more distinctive illiberalism than did their Conservative predecessors. A sad irony indeed," he said.

Although he welcomed the announcement of the Civil Partnerships Bill which will give legal recognition to gay couples, Mr Kennedy said there was "more than a hint of cheap populism" in the government's plans for speeding up the asylum appeals process.

He was also highly critical of the government's plans to turn the Lords into a House that would be entirely appointed once the remaining hereditaries are removed instead of an elected chamber.


Quoting Labour ex-cabinet minister Robin Cook, he said: "Modernisation is to be limited to moving from the 15th century principle of the hereditary to the 18th century principle of patronage."

Mr Kennedy then went on: "Four years of a Labour government with a benign economic inheritance and bolstered by a big three figure parliamentary majority.

"There's many of us in all quarters that would have been more ambitious...

"But since [Labour swept to power] I think that sense of disappointment is increasingly turning to a sense of despair and there isn't much in the way of hope that's been offered to reverse that feeling ... as a result of the contents of this Queen's Speech."

The BBC's Mark Mardell
"There's not much here to gladden the hearts of Labour campaigners"


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