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EDITIONS
Friday, 4 May, 2001, 05:02 GMT 06:02 UK
Decks cleared for election
Tony and Cherie Blair vote in English local elections in 1998
Tony Blair is expected to go to the polls on 7 June
Speculation continues to grow that Tony Blair will call a 7 June general election next week.

The prime minister is expected to spend the weekend preparing for the forthcoming election campaign after he cancelled a foreign trip planned for Monday.

Downing Street said his decision not to attend a conference of European socialist leaders was taken so that he could concentrate on "domestic issues."

An article by Mr Blair in The Times on Friday, in which he pledges to press for reform of international asylum laws, has further fuelled predictions that he is gearing up to call the election.


Tony Blair is desperate to distance himself from this left-wing jamboree because he knows it reveals Labour's true intentions towards the European Union

Francis Maude
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook will now take Mr Blair's place at Monday's conference of European socialist leaders in Berlin.

Shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude took a dim view of Mr Blair's cancellation, saying that the prime minister wanted to avoid the European issue so close to an election campaign.

"Tony Blair is desperate to distance himself from this left-wing jamboree because he knows it reveals Labour's true intentions towards the European Union," he said.

"Labour and the other EU socialist parties want a superstate with a single army, a single government and a single tax system to go with the single currency."

On Thursday Mr Blair paved the way for the election when he called a press conference in which he declared that Britain was now on the "home straight" in the battle against foot-and-mouth disease.

His intervention in the asylum issue is said to be aimed at countering Conservative claims that the government is "soft" on asylum.

'No unfair advantage'

Meanwhile, civil servants have been told to treat the government's spin doctors like ordinary members of the public once the election is called.

Alastair Campbell
Alastair Campbell will not get special treatment
The head of the civil service, Sir Richard Wilson, said that the ruling applied to all politically-appointed special advisers, including the prime minister's official spokesman, Alastair Campbell.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs had complained that these advisers would have an unfair advantage when the election was called, because they would be able to switch immediately into election campaigning mode.

Once the election is called, Mr Campbell and other special advisers will be denied access to the government's information system, known as the knowledge network.

The 7 June date has been touted since the prime minister decided not to go to the polls on 3 May because of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

William Hague has admitted to party workers in Conservative Central Office that all the polls suggested the Tories would lose the election.

But he argued the polls had been wrong at the last European elections and would prove wrong again.


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03 May 01 | UK Politics
04 May 01 | UK Politics
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