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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Labour plays down poll hopes
Labour voters have stayed at home in recent polls
The government is appealing to Labour voters not to allow the Tories to take power in local councils and in London on Thursday.

With 24 hours to go before polling, Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett said it was inevitable Labour would lose seats in the 152 councils where elections are being held.

And Prime Minister Tony Blair has sent out up to a million letters to Londoners urging them to reject independent Ken Livingstone and support former health secretary Frank Dobson.

The letter says there are "real doubts" about Mr Livingstone and pledges: "I know that Frank Dobson will not let you down."

Mr Blunkett urged Labour supporters to turn out and block a Tory resurgence at local authority level and also in the London mayoral election.

We Labour's most loyal ally are urging Londoners to vote TORY. We hope Tony Blair reflects on this ... and feels utterly embarrassed by forcing us to do it

The Mirror
Mr Blunkett's appeal to the party's voters came as the traditionally Labour-supporting newspaper The Mirror called on its London readers to back Conservative mayoral candidate Steve Norris.

In an editorial, the paper says that "sadly" Mr Norris is the best bet for London, stressing that "to vote Livingstone is unthinkable". The Daily Express, which has become an increasingly pro-Labour newspaper, has also backed Steve Norris.

Mr Blunkett called on Labour voters to support Mr Dobson.

"We would appeal to our own supporters not to let the Tories back in by default whether it's opposition candidates in the mayoral election or whether it's in English local government elections," he said

"That's the real issues for our voters."

Steve Norris: Supported by The Mirror
"Do you really want to go back to the days when local authorities were paired back to the bone with substantial cuts, where you've got opportunism which you've seen with William Hague over the last couple of weeks, with a lot of hot air without action?"

"Or do you want a Labour government which is delivering on education, on jobs."

Mr Blunkett predicted the violence by anti-capitalist demonstrators in central London on Monday could be a last minute factor in changing people's minds about Mr Livingstone.

Voters will remember "Ken's closeness to the people who were out there", he said, in reference to the violence.

"They will be thinking as they go to the ballot box what the implications are.

"That's the record of people thinking about their vote at the ballot box in the very last minute.

"Those who remember us losing four general elections on the trot remember that rather starkly."

Locals warning

Turning to the local elections, the secretary of state predicted Labour could lose up to 350 seats.

David Blunkett: Predicted 350 losses in councils
"If you're saying 'are people likely to cock a snoop in local government elections to a government midway in its term of office', the answer is historically that has always been true.

"We are experiencing that because we are the establishment. We've had three years but we've not been able to fulfil all the pledges in a full Parliament.

"We know we will lose seats across England. Even if the Tories do only as well as they did this time last year, we would expect to lose between 300 and 350."

Mr Blunkett refused to be drawn on how London Labour supporters should use their second preference vote on Thursday, saying that he had already voted for Mr Dobson alone.

"I'm not in favour of proportional representation," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Pienaar
"Can anyone stop Ken Livingstone?"
David Blunkett
"We know we will lose seats across England."
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See also:

02 May 00 | London Mayor
02 May 00 | London Mayor
28 Apr 00 | Local elections
02 May 00 | London Mayor
02 May 00 | UK Politics

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