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 A/V REPORTS
Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy
"New Labour is now better known for its sheer poverty of ambition"
 real 56k

Sir Paddy Ashdown
"We are I believe extremely fortunate to have the leader that we have"
 real 56k

The BBC's Gavin Hewitt
Looks at a day of campaigning in Bristol
 real 56k

Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 19:52 GMT 20:52 UK
Kennedy blasts Labour
Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy and predecessor Sir Paddy Ashdown
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has launched a blistering attack on the Labour government's "shocking" record.

At a rally of the party faithful in Bristol he said that the British people had voted for a change of policy in 1997, but had just got "a change of party".

The result was that the current election had become the most important for more than a generation.

Mr Kennedy, who was joined on stage by predecessor Sir Paddy Ashdown, said 2001 would stand alongside 1945 and 1979 as an election in which "this country could make a distinct leap".


Labour's record has been shocking, absolutely shocking

Charles Kennedy
In a speech which attacked the Conservatives' past record, and current policies on issues such as asylum and tax, Mr Kennedy also launched his strongest attack yet on Labour during the campaign.

Mr Kennedy, seeking to differentiate his party from Labour, said: "Labour's record has been shocking, absolutely shocking.

"We are different from Labour - we are putting forward policies to make a real difference for schools, the health service, pensioners and the police."

Sir Paddy's backing

Earlier at the rally in Bristol, former Lib Dem leader Sir Paddy Ashdown said: "Charles Kennedy has started this campaign brilliantly.

"I cannot remember an election in recent years that has been started better."

Turning to the opposition, he said Labour's first term had been "not a bad government", judged by the standards of last half century.


I cannot remember an election in recent years that has been started better

Sir Paddy Ashdown
But although New Labour had been "a disappointment", the election of William Hague's Tory party would be "a disaster for this country", he said.

And the former leader said he hoped the honest approach of the Lib Dems could reverse the increasing signs of political apathy within the population, which he said could cause a "crisis in our democracy".

Sir Paddy continued: "If around one third of our people simply don't vote, the standing of our whole political system will be further, perhaps fatally undermined."

The Lib Dems' message - that it is "possible to have principle in politics" - stood in contrast to the other parties.

And every vote for Lib Dems on 7 June would be "a vote for a kind of politics people can begin to trust again," he told supporters.

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