Quietly, the Tories are creeping up

THE Conservatives have quietly, just like their leader, crept up in the latest opinion poll and now trail Labour by just 1%.It's no surprise. Tony Blair is pig-headedly determined to inflict the European Convention on a British public that is totally against it.

THE Conservatives have quietly, just like their leader, crept up in the latest opinion poll and now trail Labour by just 1%.

It's no surprise. Tony Blair is pig-headedly determined to inflict the European Convention on a British public that is totally against it. The same poll showed that if the Prime Minister doesn't back track then a majority would like to see the UK quit the European Union altogether.

So much for Mr Blair's determination to be at the heart of Europe. His `I'm never wrong' attitude has turned an infuriated electorate into the most Eurohostile that I can recall in the 30 years since we joined the Common Market.

It's a tragedy, a shambles, and so unnecessary. The Convention is little more than a federalist document that even those who support the EU – and I include myself – aren't prepared to swallow.


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So, the Tories are making hay. When Duncan Smith warned at last year's Conservative Party conference that his opponents should not under-estimate the resolve of the quiet man, he was effectively laughed out of court. Every time he speaks in the Commons, Labour MPs pathetically call for quiet in the chamber.

Mr Duncan Smith is on firm ground over Europe. He torpedoed his own Government over the Maastrict Treaty by demanding a referendum – just as he is doing now on the Convention.

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Yet before Shadow Secretary Bernard Jenkin starts measuring the curtains at the Ministry of Defence in preparation for a Conservative government after the next election, let's inject a measure of caution into Central Office euphoria.

For the Tories to march into Downing Street, the party has to be ahead of Labour by 8%. And it has yet to win the hearts of minds of huge swathes of Britain devoid at present of any Conservative representation.

Last week I was in Trafford and Salford, boroughs on the outskirts of Manchester. Loads and loads of money are in evidence everywhere. Regeneration of derelict docks and warehouses has seen tens of millions of pounds pouring into the region. Property prices are booming and totally out of control.

But will the moderately rich of the North West and everywhere else in the UK trust the Conservatives again and ditch Labour? Not yet, but if the Tories come up with other policies similar to the ending of university tuition fees – popular with Middle England – then Tony Blair should be worried.

Just a moderate Tory revival will see the back of Ivan Henderson in Harwich and Alan Hurst in Braintree. Even Bob Blizzard in Waveney, Chris Mole in Ipswich and Tony Wright in Great Yarmouth are on shaky ground. As the Tories advance, Liberal Democrat support is waning, bad news for Bob Russell in Colchester and Norman Lamb in Norfolk North.

The 1997 intake of Labour and Lib Dems should start taking IDS seriously –if they don't, they'll pay the consequences at the ballot box.

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