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Tuesday, September 28, 1999 Published at 20:50 GMT 21:50 UK

UK Politics

Labour and Lib Dems 'natural partners' - Ashdown

Mr Ashdown suggested co-operation on security and defence policy

Former leader of the Liberal Democrats Paddy Ashdown has appeared for the first time at a Labour Party conference, claiming his party and Labour are "natural partners".

Mr Ashdown was speaking at a fringe meeting in Bournemouth where he was sharing a platform with the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook.

Mr Ashdown said the Lib Dems had been calling for the modernisation of Britain long before Tony Blair.

He said: "What I am certain of is this: that this process would have started long ago but for the divisions on the left which have inflicted on our country more Tory governments than we should have had.

"It will be stopped dead in its tracks if the Tories get back into power again before they have returned from the planet Zog to which they have voluntarily confined themselves.

"And that our two parties are therefore natural partners in what I hope will become a decade of reform as great as any in our democratic history."

[ image: Robin Cook: Britain's place in the world needs cross-party concensus]
Robin Cook: Britain's place in the world needs cross-party concensus
Labour and the Lib Dems had already co-operated in government, Mr Ashdown.

"Perhaps" the next area of co-operation should be on security and defence policy, he continued.

Mr Cook also called for a greater national consensus on foreign policy.

The foreign secretary said: "Our perceptions of what is Britain's place in the world lacks a national consensus, it does not have cross-party broad support.

"You are not going to carve out a successful role for Britain in the world if that role becomes a party political football."

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