Wednesday, April 27

Election fight gets personal

Tony Blair wants to talk about education, not himself or indeed 'the war'.
Conservative leader Michael Howard has accused Tony Blair of trying to pull off a "con trick" over tax rises for the third election running.

The campaign is becoming increasingly personalised after a Tory poster accused the Labour leader of lying.

Labour hit back with posters claiming Michael Howard has a "hidden agenda" for the NHS, although Mr Blair is concentrating on education policies.

Charles Kennedy says the Lib Dem mood is best since the "heady days" of 1983.
He said the Tories' tactics showed they thought they would lose the election.
"They are falling back now on the most negative form of personalised campaigning," said Mr Kennedy.

"It won't do them any good, it won't do the quality of the general election campaign any good."

He said the "four-letter word" liar should only be used when it was absolutely guaranteed to be true.

The latest Tory poster says: "If he's prepared to lie to take us to war, he's prepared to lie to win an election."
And speaking in Edinburgh on Wednesday, Mr Howard attacked Mr Blair for delivering a "stab in the back" to the Scottish infantry regiments facing merger or disbandment.

He said that in a further "test of character", Mr Blair had twice raised taxes after elections despite pre-poll promises and was refusing to admit he would need to do the same again.

Character is an issue at this election - it is about trust.
"He has got away with it twice before and thinks he can pull off this con trick a third time," said Mr Howard.
"But what does he take Scottish voters for: does he think they are idiots?"
Asked if he had ever lied in the past, Mr Howard said: "I'm not aware of any occasion when I have deliberately or knowingly misled people and that is the charge I lay against Mr Blair."

'Back door plan'
Labour says Mr Blair will not be drawn on the personalised Tory attacks.
But a Labour election broadcast on Wednesday will claim the choice for families is between "investment in education or Tory cuts" or "an NHS that's free or Tory charges".

Mr Blair will use a speech to renew his attack on the Tories' pupil passports scheme and to talk up Labour investment plans for pupils and school buildings.

In his speech, Mr Blair is expected to say: "The Conservatives can mount any number of attacks on me personally. They don't matter.
"They're just part and parcel of the Tory plan to sneak to power through the back door. What matters to me is stopping the attack they are planning on every school in the country.

"What angers me is that the Conservatives have a plan to cut £200 per pupil per year from local schools and they're trying desperately to hide it. That's what all the personality stuff is really about."

The Conservatives plan to let parents spend the value of what would be spent on a state education - £5,500 per pupil by 2008 - on a private education for their child.

The schools would not be allowed to charge any fee on top and the party says the scheme would improve choice.
The prime minister will stress the importance of school discipline and respect for teachers, an issue the Tories have put at the heart of their manifesto with a pledge to allow schools the final say in expelling pupils.
Teaching expertise
Mr Blair will also trumpet Labour's commitment to rebuild or refurbish half of all primary schools within 15 years, and all secondary schools.

The Liberal Democrats are highlighting their pledge to guarantee that in the core subjects of English, maths, science, modern languages and computing pupils will be taught by teachers who are qualified specialists in those subjects.

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy said: "Enthusiasm. Dedication. Optimism. Expertise. These are the qualities of our best teachers and I want the whole profession to be equipped with the skills and support they need to do the job."

The party would fund its plans for smaller class sizes by scrapping the Child Trust Fund.
The Conservative campaign has been criticised by former party chairman Norman Tebbit, who described it as "bits and pieces without a really strong theme".

The United Kingsom Independence Party is attepting to put 'Europe' on the political agenda with its core message ''We want our country back''. The party has enjoyed a higher profile that at previous general elections with leader Roger Knapman commenting on key radio slots this week.

A new Mori poll for the Financial Times, today of people certain to vote suggests Labour's lead has narrowed, with the party on 36%, the Conservatives on 34%, up 2%, and the Lib Dems on 23% , up 2%. With UKIP at only 2%.
With 8 days left there is still hope that the politicians will connect with the people; which so far they have failed to do.

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