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Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 22:38 GMT
Blair tells activists: Prepare to campaign
Tony Blair
Tony Blair: Preparing his troops for battle
Prime Minister Tony Blair has issued one of the clearest signals yet of an approaching general election with a rallying cry sent to every member of the Labour party.

A special pamphlet, called The Choices for Britain, has been distributed setting out the strategy activists should use on the doorsteps.

Every Labour member and every Labour supporter has a role to play.

Tony Blair
Mr Blair describes it as a "vital campaigning tool".

In it he writes that Labour's biggest enemy is not any rival political party but cynicism with politics - which he claims Conservative leader William Hague is deliberating fostering.

With a spring poll now widely predicted by commentators the timing of the pamphlet's distribution is significant.

And in an accompanying magazine the prime minister makes it clear he is not planning to see out his government's potential five-year term and go to the polls in 2002.

He tells his supporters: "I know we ask a lot of you. And we'll be asking more this year."

Tories on alert

News of Labour's move comes a week after the Tories put themselves on general election alert with Mr Hague appointing his campaign "inner circle".

The Conservatives emphasised Mr Hague's meet-the-people plan to spend much of the election campaign touring the country.

However, it is feared voter apathy could produce one of the lowest general election turnouts since the war.

Mr Blair says he believes William Hague is keen to foster it because he knows seats could be won for the Tories without attracting any extra votes if enough Labour supporters simply stay at home.

If just one in five of those who backed Labour in 1997 fail to vote, the party would lose 60 seats without anyone switching their vote to the Conservatives.

'Coming campaign'

Mr Blair writes in the Labour pamphlet: "In the coming campaign, the Tories will use the only card they have - cynicism.

"They want you to believe that change is not possible, that all government is equally bad, that there is no hope.

"They want you to stay at home so they win by default. Every Labour member and every Labour supporter has a role to play in defeating this cynicism."

The pamphlet sets out Labour's core campaign themes: the party's record of delivering economic stability and the prospect of massive investment in public services.

Activists are urged to concentrate on five key areas when taking their message to the electorate:

  • Economic stability

  • Labour's goal of full employment

  • Investment in public services

  • Labour's strategy to cut crime

  • Positive engagement in Europe and the world

    Mr Blair sums up by declaring: "In the next election campaign, the choices before the British people will be stark.

    "In my lifetime, I cannot remember a Tory Party so rudderless, so divided, so fixated by the idea of privatising public services and with such an incoherent policy programme.

    "We must expose them for what they are at every turn."

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