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Lib Dem leader, Charles Kennedy
"I think it's pretty inescapable"
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Sunday, 27 May, 2001, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Euro vote 'certain'
Sir David Frost with Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy: Euro referendum is "inescapable"
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has declared that a referendum on the UK's membership of the euro in the next two years is "inescapable".

He insisted the general election is primarily about the standard of public services - not the single currency as the Tories had claimed.


This boil has got to be lanced one way or the other

Charles Kennedy on the euro referendum
In the last 11 days of the campaign he predicted the electorate would realise the Conservatives were heading for "meltdown" and vote Lib Dem to counter another huge Labour majority.

And he appealed to voters to support his party as the only one offering "intelligent opposition with integrity".

Hollowness

Despite polls suggesting the UK's most eurosceptic voters live in the Lib Dem heartlands of the south west, Mr Kennedy insisted the issue of Britain's membership of the euro had to be settled as soon as possible.

Speaking after speculation that a second Labour government would immediately start campaigning in favour of the euro, Mr Kennedy said it was a "pretty inescapable" that the UK would see a referendum.

"This boil has got to be lanced one way or the other," said Mr Kennedy, the most pro-euro of the three main party leaders.

"When that happens, I think the hollowness of William Hague's position... will be exposed for the sham it is."

Burnt out

Mr Kennedy kept up a relentless attack on the "bankrupt and burned-out" Tory party, mocking Mr Hague's declaration on Saturday that there were only days left to save the pound.

"If William Hague is now saying we have got 11 days left to save the pound, I think we have got 11 days left to save the country from a William Hague Conservative government."


I want people to vote positively for us on the kind of agenda that we're putting forward

Charles Kennedy
At the same time Mr Kennedy, speaking on BBC 1's Breakfast with Frost, played down talk of tactical voting, saying he wanted positive voting in support of Lib Dem policies.

Mr Kennedy, who said he was the only one of the main party leaders enjoying the election campaign, is keeping attacks on the Tories high up his agenda on Sunday.

The Conservatives offer the most serious threat in most seats the Liberal Democrats fear losing on 7 June.

Meltdown prediction

The Lib Dem leader said between now and then the country would decide that an "almost inevitable" Labour victory demanded "an intelligent opposition with integrity about it".

"We know that the Conservatives are likely to go into meltdown either before polling or certainly the day after it... they are going to be off the field of combat.

"We can't have a position in the next parliament where the government can basically do what it likes because there's no effective scrutinising opposition and that's where we must come into play.

"So my approach is very much not just with a view to the finishing tape, it's almost as important what happens the day after and in the weeks and months that follow the finishing tape

"That's why I want people to vote positively for us on the kind of agenda that we're putting forward."

Do-it-yourself PR

Until now Charles Kennedy has stood out from his rivals for acknowledging the existence of tactical voting and there have even been suggestions his party has been encouraging it.

In the interview he said "loose talk" about the issue was "missing the mark" and he wanted people to vote Lib Dem if they agreed with their priorities.

He added that although he would not condemn or condone what were local decisions, tactical voting was "do-it-yourself proportional representation".

The Liberal Democrat leader also signalled a lukewarm attitude towards further co-operation with Labour in government.

The two parties set up a joint consultative committee under Mr Kennedy's predecessor Sir Paddy Ashdown to discuss areas of mutual interest.

But Mr Kennedy said he was not sure if the committee would survive the general election, adding: "It's not high on my list of priorities whether it does or whether it doesn't".

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