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Saturday, 9 June, 2001, 18:43 GMT 19:43 UK
Liberal Democrats - a new opposition?

The Liberal Democrats have gained significant ground in this election, securing six new seats and increasing their share of the vote. It was their best election night since 1929.

Party leader Charles Kennedy's promises of individual liberty, social justice and honesty in his party's spending plans evidently struck a chord with the electorate, and with swing voters in particular.

The Liberal Democrat campaign was based on providing "constructive opposition" while assuring voters that "you get what you see".

Do you think the Liberal Democrats have become as Charles Kennedy said the "true opposition". What could that mean for the political dynamics in Westminster?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

Much has been made of Kennedy's gain of a few extra seats which he only gained due to voters voting tactically as a protest vote. By promoting tactical voting he has been nothing but self serving and put us the citizens of this democratic country into jeopardy in that he has deprived us of a strong opposition that could stand up to Labour's pranks. Kennedy has been successful in fooling a sizeable proportion of the gullible British electorate that he is a fair and honest politician when in fact he has been an opportunist.
Anne Sharpe, Bath, UK


The Liberal Democrats seem to be the only party left

David, Cardiff, UK
Charles Kennedy said that the Liberal Democrats would be an effective opposition to Labour - obviously not the numerical opposition. They need to be. The Tories didn't speak up for the poor and the powerless - the very people Labour have let down. The Liberal Democrats seem to be the only party left that will do that.
David, Cardiff, UK

The Lib Dems ran the most direct and honest campaign of the election and looking at the state of the Tories, they are the only party that is in a position to put pressure on the Labour government in the next Parliament.
Sheena, UK

Let's get things in perspective, just like the Tories they are now political nonentities for another five years!
Mike, Harlow, England

They would be a more effective opposition with a fairer voting system. They got nearly half as many votes as the Labour party, yet only an eighth as many seats. About 25% of the country voted for Labour, so presumably 75% don't want them. Even amongst those that actually voted, most didn't vote for them. This is not a democracy, by any stretch of the imagination
Steve Knight, England

Of course they're not the true opposition. To be the true opposition you need the second-highest number of seats. What Kennedy seems to be trying to say is that the Liberal Democrat voice will be louder and clearer than the Conservatives. That's not the same thing. It's a sad day when a party leader gets his political terminology wrong...
Jamie Evans, Cardiff, Wales

They would be a more effective opposition with a fairer voting system. They got nearly half as many votes as the Labour party, yet only an eighth as many seats. About 25% of the country voted for Labour, so presumably 75% don't want them. Even amongst those that actually voted, most didn't vote for them. This is not a democracy, by any stretch of the imagination
Steve Knight, England

Of course they're not the true opposition. To be the true opposition you need the second-highest number of seats. What Kennedy seems to be trying to say is that the Liberal Democrat voice will be louder and clearer than the Conservatives. That's not the same thing. It's a sad day when a party leader gets his political terminology wrong...
Jamie Evans, Cardiff, Wales


All we know is that they oppose the opposition and generally like the government

Janek, London
Opposition to whom? So far all we know is that they oppose the opposition generally like the government. They still get most of their votes based on who they are not or who they used to be, and not because of who they are. Do you think that the voters in Guildford consciously voted for a more left wing agenda than that offered by Labour? They voted for the old "cuddly & woolly" Liberals. So President Blair gets his "overwhelming mandate for a radical agenda" and massive majority based on 25% of the electorate! Pass the sick bag.
Janek, London, UK

This is a good example of why so many people are put off by politicians. The facts show that the Lib Dems got one third the number of Conservative seats and half the number of votes. A good showing yes, but they still have a long way to go to even get close to a struggling Conservative party. Stop exaggerating Mr Kennedy and we might believe some of the other things you say.
Mark , Bristol, UK

Interesting to note that the only Liberal Democrat loss of the evening was in Taunton where the sitting MP was fervently anti-hunting. A lesson for those who ignore the strongly held views of the countryside.
Andrew Greenway, West Sussex

This is a good result for the Lib Dems, but they are still too close to Labour on the main issues to be anything other than a safe protest vote. Charles Kennedy is gradually changing the party in his own image and I think the next election will be the real test of whether they can take on the opposition role.
Paul R, UK


The fact is the voters do not like them enough to give them a chance

Andy Snape, Essex
The Lib-Dems seem to have failed to notice something really important. They polled the third most votes and won the third most seats. The opposition party needs to be in second place in both categories. If they want to do that, they have to do a lot more than come third and suck up to Labour, which has been one of the most sickening sites of the last four years. The fact is the voters do not like them enough to give them a chance, therefore they are not the true opposition. A true opposition would actually oppose the government.
Andy Snape, Essex. UK

When will Labour supporters wake up to the fact that they have been used as a means for Blair to become Prime Minister. He has trampled the party's traditional values purely to further his own ambition. The Lib-Dems are now the only credible recipients of the Labour vote. When Blair sets his sights on becoming President of Europe we should be very afraid.
Chris Middleton, London, UK

The election is being, somewhat mysteriously, as a triumph for Charles Kennedy, who now wishes to see himself as THE opposition. Strange - I could have sworn that he has only gained a handful of seats - and most of those are down to tactical voting. The Lib Dems' share of the vote hasn't gone up appreciably either - in fact, in seats won by the Tories, the share has gone down overall, compared with 1997. Nationally, the Tories have won nearly 8.5 million votes, as compared with the LDs' 4.8 million, a bigger gap than between Labour and the Tories. I think we need to keep a sense of proportion here - I fear that our friend from the North of Scotland is whistling in the dark. It's obvious from Labour comments last night and this morning that they still see the Tories as the main opposition. You've a way to go, Mr Kennedy....
Mark Clifford, Knebworth, Herts

Yes, I think they are the true opposition and I can see them going from strength to strength. Far from having a problem of bridging the gap between their right and left supporters I believe that the Lib-Dems are the one party in the Commons which can win votes from New Labour supporters, Old Labour supporters and left-wing Conservative supporters. As Charles Kennedy said, they are not right of Labour or left of Labour, they are merely a progressive party. That is why I feel that as the Tories split over the Euro and their new leader it would be possible for men such as Kenneth Clarke to defect to the Lib Dems.
Michael Amherst, Gloucester, UK

It is quite clear that the Liberal Democrats are already the true opposition in the sense of providing a genuine left-wing alternative to Labour's pink Thatcherism. Unfortunately this is not reflected in their share of seats, and won't be until we finally get proportional representation. Given the big' parties' intransigent and undemocratic attitude towards this essential reform, the only chance of a real change to the electoral system will be a hung parliament at the next election, which would give the Liberal Democrats some bargaining power.
Alexander Morrison, Oxford, U.K.


It is hard to see how a third party can enjoy a fair playing field

Kim Leece, Japan
It is hard to see how a third party can enjoy a fair playing field in these modern, supposedly democratic, times. The Liberal Democratic party has long been the 'true opposition', why else would both the Labour, and Conservative parties refuse for so long to change a transparently unfair, unrepresentative voting system. It is no wonder that fewer and fewer people waste their time voting when the choice is between two extremes that a lot of people don't like.
Kim Leece, Kotake, Japan

To expand on what Kim said, Labour have around 62% of the seats, yet only around 42% of voters actually wanted them in. In effect, they've got in with a minority, compared to the combined totals of Conservatives and Lib-Dems.
Neil Brown, Leicester

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