Forward"Liberal Democrats have a proud record of support for closer co-operation within Europe. The European Unions record in securing fifty years of peace and prosperity among its members means that our support has been more than vindicated. But we are not blind to the EUs faults. There is an unanswerable case for reforming Europes institutions and making them more accountable to the people they serve. We are pro-Europe, but clear about its limits and firm on its failings. Our approach is simple: local where possible, European where necessary. And what we work towards for the UK - democratic, open and decentralised government - we strive for in Europe too.
"When the Conservatives were swept from power two years ago, the problems they left behind were immense: our nation was becoming increasingly isolated, our influence in Europe seriously eroded, our society increasingly divided, our political system discredited, our public services run down, our sense of community fractured, our environment polluted and our economy under-performing. There was much to be done and no time to waste in getting started.
"Yet, on the domestic front, the first thing that the new Government decided to do was to implement the spending plans which the Conservatives left behind. The result was predictable. Class sizes went up, not down. NHS waiting lists got longer, not shorter. There were fewer police officers fighting crime, not more. And public transport has deteriorated further.
"As Liberal Democrats have consistently pointed out, if you want good public services you have to pay for them.
"Labour has, of course, made some good progress in other areas, such as constitutional reform, but in general the Government has been too timid and too cautious to seize the unique opportunity to modernise Britain. It has promised little and delivered even less. The enormous challenges facing our nation have not been met, and the big decisions facing the Government have not been taken.
"Nowhere has this been more true than in relation to Europe.
"The counter-productive isolationism of the Conservatives left Britain on the margins in Europe, unable to share in its successes or to tackle its failings. Two years after Labour came to power, not enough has changed.
"The British citizen can never be truly powerful or secure if he or she is a citizen of Britain alone - not least because threats such as environmental pollution do not respect national boundaries. Increasingly our prosperity, our security and our environment are deeply affected by developments in other countries - particularly in the European Union. Acting together, European nations have made a major contribution to the promotion of human rights, especially in assisting the transition to democracy and the advancement of social justice in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and developing nations in other regions.
"So, we believe that the time has now come to put the irrelevance and indecision of the past behind us; to move forward with purpose, confidence and ambition; to work with our partners, not against them, recognising that countries, like people, can often achieve more together than they can on their own.
"If we are serious about creating a more prosperous Britain, a more competitive Britain, a more secure Britain, and a more influential Britain, then we must first create a more outward looking, constructive and co-operative Britain.
"Equally, if we are serious about creating a more successful Europe, a more legitimate Europe, a more stable Europe and a wider Europe, then we must first create a more decentralised, democratic and responsive Europe.
"Positive engagement in Europe. Radical reform of Europe. The two go together. A vote for the Liberal Democrats in the European elections is a vote for both. More Liberal Democrat votes will mean that more British Members of the European Parliament will add strength to the already forceful Liberal group in the European Parliament - the group that took the lead in bringing about the recent decisive victory of the Parliament over the discredited Santer Commission.
"But a vote for the Liberal Democrats on June 10th will achieve more than just this. It will also send a clear signal to the Government that it must do much more at home as well. And because for the first time ever on a nationwide basis this will be a PR or fair votes election, you can be sure that your voice will be heard.
"Whoever you are, wherever you live, this time your vote will count and your views will matter."
Rt Hon Paddy Ashdown MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Copyright ©1999 The Liberal Democrats
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