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Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 20:56 GMT 21:56 UK
Kennedy rallies troops
Charles Kennedy and his partner Sarah Gurling
Charles Kennedy says Lib Dems are the only opposition
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has accused the prime minister of forgetting the principles that propelled him to power.

He was speaking at a rally of the party faithful in Southport on Thursday night, where a number of Tory hecklers were escorted from the building.


New Labour has forgotten why it wanted power in the first place

Charles Kennedy

"New Labour has forgotten why it wanted power in the first place," said Mr Kennedy.

He said the Liberal Democrats would now be the only viable opposition to a re-elected Labour government.

And he reaffirmed his party's pledge to increase pensions by more than the Tories or Labour.

They would increase the basic state pension by 5 a week, with 10 a week for those over 75 and 15 for the over 80s.

He said his party was committed to fighting crime by increasing the number of police officers by 6,000.

On the environment, he said the Lib Dems were committed to creating a sustainable economy.

And on education, he pledged that the Lib Dems would abolish tuition fees, cut class sizes for primary schools and fund extra secondary school teachers.

Mr Kennedy suggested there was little to choose between Labour and the Tories.

'Citizens shackled'

"I put it to you that the reds and blues have never looked so grey," he said.

"Our citizens are still shackled by the lack of provision of the most basic of services and the hopeless lack of leadership," he said.

Conservative Party supporter Tim Matthews is shown the door by an unnamed Liberal
Conservative Party supporter Tim Matthews was escorted out

"And like people up and down the country, I'm fed up with being fed up."

Earlier the Liberal Democrats said they had plans to eradicate "fuel poverty" for the elderly by introducing a UK-wide home insulation programme.

They promised that within 15 years, all homes in the UK would be properly insulated, saving the average family 6 a week on fuel bills.

The party said it would negotiate with the EU to end VAT on all energy-conserving materials.

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