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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 October, 2004, 08:32 GMT
February poll claim 'speculation'
Tony Blair
Commentators predict Blair could benefit from a 'Baghdad bounce'
Reports that Tony Blair is planning a snap general election for February 2005 have been described as "idle speculation" by Downing Street.

A spokesman said he had "no idea" where the reports in the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph had come from.

The papers suggest ministers believe the government could benefit from a "Baghdad bounce" following successful Iraq elections in January.

A British general election was last held in February in 1974.

In that election, Edward Heath lost and failed to build a coalition with the Liberals.

Harold Wilson took over and increased his majority later in the year in a second election

Advertising blitz

The latest speculation suggests the prime minister favours a February poll in order to exploit his current opinion poll lead over Conservative leader Michael Howard.

But that strategy could prompt criticism he was seeking to "cut and run" after less then four years of a parliamentary term.

The papers report that Alan Milburn, Labour's head of elections strategy, has played a key role in the plan for a February election, which would include a New Year advertising blitz.

New Labour's campaign, both newspapers said, would be centred around the slogan "Britain is Working".

A Labour Party spokesman said the election date was ultimately a matter for Mr Blair, but he was unaware of anything to suggest it would be in February.

Most commentators have been expecting an election on 5 May.

The last election was in June 2001.

How 'Baghdad bounce' could affect election planning

The Sun Labour on election footing - 21 hrs ago
TelegraphEarly election is 'idle speculation' - 23 hrs ago
Asian Age Blair wants February snap polls - 31 hrs ago
Daily Mail Snap election date 'dismissed' - 32 hrs ago
Reuters UK 'February election' report played down - 35 hrs ago
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