Ming Campbell explains what has happened this week:
You may have read in the newspapers about how Gordon Brown spoke to me earlier this week about offering ministerial jobs to Liberal Democrat members of the House of Lords.
I share his high assessment of the abilities of our parliamentarians! But I have rejected his offer, just as I did that from David Cameron, when he asked me in April to consider proposing a joint candidate for London Mayor with the Conservatives.
The Liberal Democrats are a strong, independent party. There is no way that Liberal Democrats can serve in a Labour government – especially this Labour government, which is doing so much that we are fundamentally opposed to: ID cards, mismanagement of the NHS, neglect of the environment, centralisation of power, attacks on civil liberties, nuclear power and Council Tax.
On so many issues, the Conservatives and Labour are now part of a cosy consensus and it is the Liberal Democrats who are providing the real opposition. They agree on the Iraq War. They agree on tax breaks for the rich – something I challenged the Prime Minister about at question time on Wednesday. They agree on keeping council tax, and on keeping student tuition fees. And on the question of whether BAE made secret payments in return for arms contracts and whether the government knew about it, the Conservatives are completely silent because theirs was the government that signed the contract in the first place.
Never has the need for a strong, independent Liberal Democrat opposition in British politics been greater. Of course we will continue to work together openly with people in other parties where we can find common ground. That is how we helped gain, among other things, a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly. But we will do nothing that would fetter our right or ability to fiercely oppose this government in all the areas where we disagree with them.
Over the next few weeks we will be publishing further details of our tax plans, our environmental proposals, and how we will tackle poverty and inequality – all areas Labour have failed on and where the Tories offer no answers. All of these will be debated at our conference in Brighton in September. I hope you will come along. (Our website has full details.) We are also about to launch a major campaign to highlight Labour’s failures on health – we will be circulating information on that in the next few days.
The events of this week show just how important the Liberal Democrats are in British politics.
No doubt the months ahead will see more attempts by Gordon Brown and David Cameron to co-opt us to their causes. Be assured I will continue to resist them.
We will remain a strong, confident and principled voice of opposition – holding this government to account, and setting out the only serious alternative to their failing agenda.