April 5, 2005 11:45 AM

The latest news

Charles Kennedy welcomes Labour candidate in to Liberal Democrats

Earlier today, Tony Blair went to the Palace to call a general election for May 5th.

The Liberal Democrats are entering this campaign in excellent shape. More and more people are looking to the Liberal Democrats to provide a real alternative to Labour and the Conservatives.

And that's exactly what we're determined to do in this campaign.

Britain is in so many ways a fortunate country - and a good country to live in. We have principles of tolerance and social justice. By international standards we are an affluent society.

But we can and must do better. We're not in the business of talking Britain down. In fact, quite the opposite.

We're going to talk Britain up. We are ambitious for Britain. We want a fairer Britain. A Britain of real opportunity for young people and of dignity for our older people. A Britain with quality local public services - good schools and clean hospitals.

So the Liberal Democrats will fight this campaign based on real solutions to the real problems people face everyday.

We're going to address people's hopes, not play on their fears. We're going to be the positive force for good in this general election.

Just have we have done in Scotland, the Liberal Democrats would scrap student tuition fees the whole of the UK and provide free personal care for the elderly- help with things like washing or feeding.

We will provide quicker diagnosis for serious health problems and end the 'hidden waiting lists'.

We will end the scandal of discrimination against women in our pensions system, giving a £100 more a month to all pensioners over 75.

The deeply unfair Council Tax will be scrapped. A local income tax based on ability to pay would give a typical household an extra £450 a year and 6 million pensioners would pay no local tax at all.

We will cut class sizes in our schools.

We will provide 10,000 more police and keep them out on the streets longer by cutting back on paperwork.

And we are straightforward about what this would cost.

First, we would ask the wealthiest 1% of taxpayers to pay that bit more. Second, we would redirect £5 billion of existing government spending by scrapping wasteful Government programmes like compulsory ID cards and cutting back central government departments.

Our costings are based on official figures. The sums add up. The balance sheet is balanced.

And we've just got to get serious about the environment. Time is not on our side. The reality of climate change is with us here and now. That's why the green agenda is at the heart of all we propose to do.

People feel badly let down by Labour. They're never going to regain the trust of the British people. Frankly, they don't deserve to.

When you break your promises over tax increases and imposing student top up fees people don't forget.

Nor will people forgive the fact that Tony Blair lined up with George Bush and we were misled into the Iraq war.

The Liberal Democrats have been principled and consistent on all these matters during the last parliament.

And we're going to stay principled and consistent throughout this campaign and into the next parliament which I am determined will see us present in much larger numbers.

The Conservatives just can't offer credibly the fresh alternative that the country is looking for. They are a party of the past, not the future.

It's time for something different. Liberal Democrats are the real alternative.

With best wishes

Charles Kennedy