Third landslide `essential' says Progres

THE first signs of twitchiness among Tony Blair's aparatchicks that the New Labour agenda could be in danger has been signalled by the self-styled democratic socialist grouping Progress, which concludes that the Prime Minister can't afford anything less than a third landslide at the next election.

THE first signs of twitchiness among Tony Blair's aparatchicks that the New Labour agenda could be in danger has been signalled by the self-styled democratic socialist grouping Progress, which concludes that the Prime Minister can't afford anything less than a third landslide at the next election.

Following a prediction from the Mori organisation's Bob Worcester - one of the UK's foremost election experts - that Labour will win with an overall majority of 60 to 80, Progress believes that would not be enough to run a strong government programme.

"There is no room for complacency," says this New Labour mouthpiece. "Anything less than a truly workable majority would lead to a death by a thousand cuts.

"Of the 100 most vulnerable seats, 60 are loyal MPs, meaning any swing disproportionately scythes away loyal backbenchers, middle-ranking ministers and rising stars."


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Given that Labour's majority on top-up fees was reduced to just five because rebel MPs voted against the Government, and that the vote on whether to go to war with Iraq was won only because of the support of the Conservatives, it's clear to see why New Labour's ciphers in Armani suits are getting uptight.

With a smaller majority, Progress predicts the party "turning in on itself and descending into faction fighting."

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Yes, but wouldn't politics be much more fun!

ONE of the most Blairite of ministers has unveiled a slogan that could become a familiar phrase from Labour politicians' lips in the run-up to the next general election.

Schools Standards Minister David Miliband labelled the children who started primary school in 1997 "the Blair generation" because they had benefited from "innovation and investment" in education and had the "potential to be world leaders."

Mr Miliband, author of the party's 1997 and 2001 election manifestos and former head of Tony Blair's policy unit, used the phrase six times in a speech to the Secondary Heads Association annual conference in Harrogate.

"STRIVE for five" is the European campaign strategy of Tories in Suffolk, Essex and the rest of the East of England as they confidently set out to go one better that the 1999 European elections. Unfortunately, no one appears to have told Conservative Central Office.

At a briefing for national and regional journalists in London on Wednesday, hosted by joint Party Chairman Dr Liam Fox, Tory election experts seemed sanguine at their chances on June 10.

They acknowledged that they did so well last time because of differential turnout - their supporters went to the polls while Labour and the Lib Dems stayed at home, contributing to an appalling average 25% poll across the UK.

Under the closed list system of proportional representation used for European elections, the Tories won four of the eight seats on offer and were pipped to a fifth seat by the UK Independence Party.

This time, the number of Euro MPs is being reduced to account of the increase in EU membership by 10 extra nations. The East of England entitlement goes down to seven.

The Tories fear that other elections being held on the same day may dent their prospects. Throughout the rest of the country, the London mayoral, London Assembly, Welsh Assembly, Welsh local authority, and English metropolitan districts will be voting as well which it is expected will boost turnout. Most rural areas, traditional bedrock of Tory support, have no elections on June 10.

Central Office candidly admits: "When you take into account the reduction in seats, it is clear that we will have to significantly improve on our 1999 performance just to stand still in the terms of number of MEPs elected."

The Tories believe that antipathy to the European constitution will encourage their own supporters to vote en masse, while hoping Labour and Lib Dem voters will split their tickets and show their opposition to the constitution by backing the Conservatives when choosing an MEP.

Electors in London on June 10 face a nightmare - they will have five different votes on June 10 under four separate voting systems: first-past-the vote, closed list, supplementary vote and additional member.

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