Campbell vows to offer alternative

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell arrived in Brighton yesterday with a promise to offer an alternative to the “conservative consensus” prevalent in British politics.

Meeting waiting journalist at the seaside city, Sir Menzies said the Liberal Democrats would use their conference to present a radical policy on climate change.

He said: “We are the only party with radical and detailed policies to deal with climate change, and of course it requires action on an international, a national and indeed a personal level.

“The objective is to make Britain carbon neutral by 2050. That is an objective we simply cannot afford to fail to achieve.”

An opinion poll published today shows 41 per cent of voters agree the Lib Dems serve as a useful third force in British politics. However, the party will struggle to reach out to the 36 per cent of voters who regard them as an irrelevance.

Ahead of the conference, the Lib Dem leader said the conference would set out the party’s election platform, with an emphasis on fair taxes and opportunity for all, as well as climate change.

He said: “This week we will take decisions on a wide range of policy matters: tax, the environment, poverty and many others. These will form the foundation of our election platform.

“They are a clear demonstration of our determination to change British politics and break with the conservative consensus that we have witnessed in recent years”.

Activists will debate proposals for a 4p cut on the basic rate of climate change, the £1.5 billion Pupil Premium Scheme, charges on road freight and internal frights, the benefits of a written constitution and an illegal immigrant amnesty.

Attempting to play down the increasing questioning of his leadership, Sir Menzies argued the Liberal Democrats offered a genuine third party alternative in modern Britain.

He said: “After a decade in power Labour is vulnerable. Gordon Brown cannot disown a decade of decision-making in which he has enjoyed unparalleled input, and David Cameron cannot persuade his party to look forward rather than back.

“The opportunity for our party to make progress is real. People are seeking a political alternative that is radical and progressive – and we are that alternative.”

Despite their leader’s optimism, Lib Dem activists arrive in Brighton well-aware that their appeal has slipped since the last election.

The latest YouGov/Sunday Times opinion poll places support for the Lib Dems at 15 per cent; up one per cent but still below the 23 per cent share of the vote won at the last election.

Just one per cent of respondents said Sir Menzies was doing “very well” a leader, with 45 per cent saying he was doing very or fairly badly.