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Monday, September 20, 1999 Published at 08:45 GMT 09:45 UK

UK Politics

Kennedy promises to live dangerously

Charles Kennedy promises to be a euro evangelist

To send your questions to Charles Kennedy, click here

Charles Kennedy has started his first Liberal Democrat conference as leader by pledging to continue backing controversial and unpopular causes.

One of Mr Kennedy's first acts after he took over from Paddy Ashdown was to propose a royal commission to examine changing Britain's drug laws.

The BBC's Robin Oakley reports: "He knows he's on trial"
Speaking to the BBC on the first day of his party's conference in Harrogate, Mr Kennedy insisted he would continue to champion such causes even at the risk of alienating floating voters.

"I've always subscribed to the David Steel view of third party leadership, when if you're not prepared to live a little bit dangerously the real danger is that you may not live at all.

[ image: Charles Kennedy:
Charles Kennedy: "If you don't live dangerously, you might not live at all"
"So caution yes, but tempered by a little bit of danger," he said.

He described a "little bit of danger" as sticking to the policy themes of social justice and European integration he pursued in his leadership campaign.

"Let's take one issue: Europe, for example, which I'll be talking about a lot this week.

Charles Kennedy: "There's a fair amount of Euroscepticism out there in this country"
"Now you don't need to be Solomon to look at the opinion polls and see that there's a fair amount of Euroscepticism out there in this country, largely because the pro-European case is not being made.

"So if you're looking for an issue to fasten on, by which to raise the flag if you like, Europe might not be it. But it's going to be one of the key issues of my leadership, because it is so important for this country and this party."

[ image: The Lib Dems are proposing hypothecated taxes]
The Lib Dems are proposing hypothecated taxes
Mr Kennedy described his commitment to the European single currency as "full stop, unequivocal".

Asked whether he would again lead his party into an election campaign in which they would promise to raise tax, he said he would wait and see.

"We've always said over two elections that we'll go for the penny on income tax if necessary. I think it would be unwise at this conference to enter into long-term commitments when we genuinely don't know what the circumstances will be," he said.

Overall on taxation, he argued that the future would be more hypothecation - taxes raised for specific areas only.

"There are quite a number of arguments to be had in that kind of direction, but the balance of the emphasis should be towards specific targeted expenditure to help those areas most in need, rather than tax breaks for the well off."

On Tuesday Charles Kennedy, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, will be answering your calls, faxes and e-mails live from the party conference in Harrogate.

Conference Talk with Andrew Neil is at 6.45pm on BBC Two. You can call with your question now on 0345 514614, e-mail, or fax 0171 973 6283."

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