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Tuesday, 11 April, 2000, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Lib Dems plan election hat trick
Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy: Defending high base
The Liberal Democrats are hoping to score a hat trick on 4 May in the polls for London mayor, local government and at the Romsey by-election.

Launching the party's campaign, Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy hailed next month's elections as the last big "unifying test before the general election".

This year's local elections will see contests in 152 councils in England to elect 3,337 seats. London sees the mayoral election and ballot for the Greater London Assembly.

'Enviable task'

Locally, Lib Dems say they are aiming to build on their success in recent years, which saw the party take city councils in Liverpool and Sheffield from Labour.

"The local elections provide us with a formidable but enviable task. Our success, including the 173 gains last time these seats were fought, mean we will be defending an historically high base," said Mr Kennedy.

Enlarging on the Lib Dems' strategy, the party's environment spokesman Don Foster, said he believed the party's local seats would hold firm.

The party is expecting to lose some seats to the Tories in rural areas in the south and south west.

But Mr Foster said: "I believe in the north we'll see some quite significant and exciting gains by the Liberal Democrats, particularly in large urban constituencies controlled by the Labour Party."

He compared this to the 500 seats the Tories would have to win on 4 May to finally reverse their losses of 1996, the last time these seats were fought.

The Lib Dems have already launched attacks on Labour and the Conservatives for the language they have been using against asylum seekers.

Mr Kennedy said both parties had "lost the plot", adding that the language of Tory Ann Widdecombe and Home Secretary Jack Straw was "particularly obnoxious".

By-election target

The Lib Dems also believe they can win the by-election in Romsey, which resulted from the death of Michael Colvin in a fire at his home earlier this year.

Romsey by-election candidates
Conservative: Tim Palmer
Labour: Andrew Howard
Lib Dem: Sandra Gidley
Mr Kennedy said it was significant the Tories had called for the by-election to be on the same day as the other polls as it would divert attention away from an embarrassing failure to hold their 8,000 majority.

He expressed regret at the circumstances the by-election had been called in, adding: "The size of our task is formidable, but we are going all out to win a famous victory."

Also present at the launch was Lib Dem London mayor candidate Susan Kramer who predicted that her party would hold the balance of power in the GLA.

"London deserves a mayor and an assembly that have serious solutions to serious problems," said Mrs Kramer.

"The assembly needs strong Liberal Democrat membership.

"Every day I am more convinced that I will win.

"I can win and my message to you is that Kramer can do it," she added revealing her new campaign slogan.

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See also:

09 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Asylum row warning over elections
31 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Labour brainstorms for election
01 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Hague appeals to middle Britain
06 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Hague kicks-off local election campaign
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