LIB DEMS SHIFT FOCUS TO TACKLE LABOUR

July 29, 2008 3:12 PM

THE Liberal Democrats are to focus on unseating Labour MPs at the next General Election - meaning many in the North East could be in trouble.

Party Leader Nick Clegg said he was directing resources away from fighting the Tories, insisting the turmoil engulfing the Government was a "huge opportunity" for the Liberal Democrats.

If last week's Glasgow East by-election result is repeated in seats across the region, Labour could lose a third of its 28 seats - mostly to the Lib Dems.

Among those defeated would be Regional Minister and Deputy Chief Whip Nick Brown in Newcastle East, Doug Henderson in Newcastle North and Newcastle Central's Jim Cousins - replaced by Liberal Democrat MPs.

Ron Beadle, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman for Newcastle North, said: "The next General Election presents a great opportunity for the Liberal Democrats, not only in Newcastle and the North East, but the rest of the country.

"In Newcastle, Durham City and Northumberland the Liberal Democrats have shown how much better they can run local councils than Labour.

"At the General Election - whenever Gordon Brown calls it - we will show how much better Lib Dem MPs can represent the people of the North East in Parliament than Labour.

"The failure to take action over the A1, the lack of investment in the Metro and the closure of our local Post Offices are just three examples of how Labour has let down the North East.

"Labour has run out of steam and it is time for a change."

In a summer podcast for the Lib Dem website, Mr Clegg said Labour was "tearing itself apart", and he had "never seen anything like it".

Labour had proved it could not deliver help with spiralling energy bills, or run public services effectively, according to Mr Clegg.

"It's over for them," he insisted. "There is no point voting Labour any more. There are no safe Labour seats. They will lose every by-election they fight in this parliament. And at the next general election, they will lose in their heartlands to the Liberal Democrats.

"A Labour vote is now a wasted vote."

Mr Clegg said the Tories "haven't got a hope" of winning constituencies in parts of the country such as Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool and Oxford.

They were places where "only the Liberal Democrats can defeat Labour", he added.

"This is a huge opportunity for us," he said. "We've got to seize it. So I'm shifting our resources to put more campaigners and more effort into those seats where we're taking on Labour.

"I've instructed our campaigns chief Chris Rennard to step up our campaigns in the 50 seats where we're best placed to beat Labour."