Blair names May 5

TONY Blair yesterday launched Labour's bid for an historic third successive election victory by symbolically flying to the party's most marginal seat in Britain.

By Graham Dines

TONY Blair yesterday launched Labour's bid for an historic third successive election victory by symbolically flying to the party's most marginal seat in Britain.

He chose Dorset South - Labour majority 153 - to declare the country faced a “fundamental choice” on May 5 and plead for every vote.

He told supporters in Weymouth: “We have made progress - our economy is strong, mortgage rates are low, unemployment low, inflation low.

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“We have got investment going into our public services. This is the time to keep the progress going, move the country forward.

“Though the economy is strong, there's still things to do. Right around the country there are still people that need help with home ownership or with jobs, we need to keep living standards rising.”

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A few hours later, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw kicked off Labour's campaign in East Anglia by visiting Harwich, where Labour's Ivan Henderson is defending a majority of 2,596.

Suffolk South MP Tim Yeo headed the Tory push in the region with a media launch at a Norwich hotel, and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy returned to Norwich for the second time in five days to launch his party's regional campaign.

After months of speculation, the date of the General Election was announced by the Prime Minister after returning from Buckingham Palace, where the Queen agreed to dissolve the parliament elected less than four years ago.

MPs meet for the last time on Monday, when campaigning will get under way in earnest after the Pope funeral on Friday and Saturday's marriage of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker-Bowles.

Polling will take place on the same day as the county council elections in England and local government contests in Northern Ireland.

Conservative leader Michael Howard started a nationwide tour saying: “The choice before voters on May 5 is very clear - they can either reward Mr Blair for eight years of broken promises and vote for another five years of talk.

“Or they can vote Conservative, to support a party that's taken a stand and is committed to action on the issues that matter to hard working Britons.”

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy pledged to fight the campaign based on real solutions to the real problems people face everyday. He promised to address people's hopes, not play on their fears, and to be the positive force for good in the election.

“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.”

He pledged to scrap the “deeply unfair” council tax which would see average income families paying an extra £450 a year but six million pensioners paying no local tax at all.

“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.”

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