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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 September 2007, 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK
Lib Dems 'on snap election alert'
By Brian Wheeler
Political reporter, BBC News, Lib Dem conference

Ed Davey
Mr Davey is in charge of campaigning
The Lib Dems say they are ready for a "snap" general election - and they believe the most likely date for an autumn poll is 25 October.

Campaigns chief Ed Davey told reporters at the party's annual conference in Brighton, an election could be called "as early as nine days time".

And he said the party had spent the summer getting candidates in place and scheduling election press conferences.

"We have put the whole party on general election alert," added Mr Davey.

There is speculation Prime Minister Gordon Brown could use his speech at Labour's conference next week to announce a general election.

Mr Brown does not have to go to the country until 2010, at the latest, but with Labour ahead in the opinion polls he has refused to rule out an early poll.

'Manifesto preparations'

Mr Davey said the Lib Dems had been planning for an election for the past year - but had stepped up the preparations during the Parliamentary summer recess in expectation of an autumn poll.

Manifesto preparations are well under way
Ed Davey

He said more than 200 candidates had been selected and a further 200 were "in the process of being selected".

The party had lined up 40 visits for leader Sir Menzies Campbell around the country and had scheduled 17 election press conferences "not just in London but in the sticks as well".

"Manifesto preparations are well under way," he added.

The Lib Dems are currently languishing in the opinion polls, with ratings in the high teens and low twenties, but Mr Davey said the extra media exposure guaranteed by a general election campaign would change that.

'Out of touch'

Mr Davey said Labour and the Conservatives had "become very similar in their policies - it is often hard to find big differences" - and the Lib Dems had distinctive policies on the environment, nuclear power, Iraq and a range of other issues, making them the "only alternative" to the "cosy" two party consensus.

He also hit back at Lord Rogers, the former Lib Dem leader in the House of Lords, who said some people had been "disappointed" by Sir Menzies leadership.

"I think on this particular issue, he is totally out of touch," he told reporters.

People who had worked closely with Sir Menzies since he took over as leader had been "impressed" by his performance, he added.

He said the party had been working on the assumption that Mr Brown could hold an election as early as 18 October but as that was a school half-term it was more likely to be 25 October.


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