The election battleground is clear

FORGET the Iraq War, the European Constitution, and even education – the General Election will be won or lost on health, pensions and transport.Despite the billions poured into the National Health Service since 1997, waiting lists are far too long – especially if you take into account the scam of not putting patients on a consultant's list until a suitable pre-waiting period has been completed.

FORGET the Iraq War, the European Constitution, and even education - the General Election will be won or lost on health, pensions and transport.

Despite the billions poured into the National Health Service since 1997, waiting lists are far too long - especially if you take into account the scam of not putting patients on a consultant's list until a suitable pre-waiting period has been completed.

If the Conservatives believe they have a credible alternative to Labour's new initiatives on patient choice, then their leader Michael Howard needs to check that what he says is actually true when he lays into Government policy.

Last week, the increasingly gaff prone Mr Howard attacked the way the Government is handling the NHS by claiming a constituent of his, a breast cancer patient, had allegedly been told that she would have to wait 20 months for her treatment.


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When his statement was investigated, it was discovered that no-one in his constituency of Folkestone and Hythe had had to wait longer than 14 weeks, and considerably less for urgent cases. Conservative Central Office spin doctors shrugged off the mistake, pointing out that Mr Howard was trying to illustrate a point about waiting lists and had, thereby, succeeded in making his point.

Not good enough. He made his claim during Prime Minister's Question and Mr Howard should take the opportunity to apologise tomorrow for misleading the Commons. If he doesn't, the electorate may doubt anything he says again on health care.

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If the pensions crisis forces people to work till they drop, the trade union backlash against Labour could cost dozens of MPs their seats.

And as for this country's chaotic transport policy, the Tories have given South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo the task of a coming up with a credible alternative. He has much to get his teeth into - promised motorways have still not reached the design stage, overcrowded trains don't run on time, buses are virtually non-existent in large areas of Britain, petrol prices discriminate against rural dwellers, and the proliferation of cheap flights are an environmental nonsense.

I HAVE no sympathy whatsoever for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Ipswich, ambushed on the casting vote of the Labour mayor at the first council meeting since Labour's poll drubbing on June 10.

If they wanted change at the civic centre, the Tories should have foreseen that their suspended councillor Stephen Barker would cost them dear and forced him to resign, allowing a replacement to be elected. And the Liberal Democrats should ensure all their councillors go to meetings for which they are being paid by the electorate to attend.

What is obscene about the outcome of the annual council meeting is that Labour, totally rejected by the voters in this month's local elections, clings to power and arrogantly refuses to accept the will of the people.

The Toytown antics of all three parties bring local politics into disrepute. A Greater Ipswich unitary authority - or better still, one for the one for the whole of East Suffolk - can't come soon enough.

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