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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
Elections 'referendum on Blair'
Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell
Sir Menzies is highlighting problems in the NHS
Voters will inevitably use the local elections in England as a referendum on Tony Blair, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell is predicting.

Sir Menzies said his party was focusing on local issues.

But he argued: "Labour are on the ropes and with good reason. On crime, health and the environment, they are failing nationally and locally."

The polls are the first electoral test for Sir Menzies' leadership.

Sir Menzies visited a recycling centre in Milton Keynes on Tuesday before travelling to Alder Hey children's hospital in Liverpool.

NHS fears

The hospital visit is an attempt to highlight the damage the Lib Dems say is being caused by the government's NHS reforms.

They say hospitals like Alder Hey are struggling to balance their books because the new payment by results system does not take account of the extra cost of specialist operations.

Labour contests that its extra investment and changes in the health service have improved services for patients.

It is warning supporters that staying at home on Thursday could mean they wake up with a Lib Dem or Conservative council.

A poor showing from Labour will put pressure on Mr Blair to name the date for his departure from Downing Street.

The Tories say they, not the Lib Dems, offer the sensible alternative to Labour.

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