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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 May, 2005, 18:36 GMT 19:36 UK
Blair highlights economic stakes
Gordon Brown and Tony Blair
Gordon Brown and Tony Blair have been attacking Tory economic plans
Tony Blair is making the economy the centrepiece of his final appeals to voters in Labour's election campaign.

At a rally in Huddersfield, Mr Blair vowed to use the last hours before the poll to show the economy and investment in public services were at stake.

He also hinted that former Home Secretary David Blunkett could be set for a return to government.

The Tories say Labour secretly plans tax rises while the Lib Dems say Mr Blair is running scared of them.

Third term?

The Huddersfield rally was launched by Bee Gees star Robin Gibb, whom Mr Blair called one of his heroes.

The Labour leader accused his opponents of trying to focus on anything but the public services in the election fight.

He said he never wanted to see Britain return to a Conservative government.

We got the impression you were just following President Bush
Mohammed Jaffer
Voter who tackled Tony Blair over Iraq

"What is at stake in this election is very, very clear - it is the strength of the economy, people's mortgages, their homes, their jobs, their living standards," he said.

Mr Blair also attacked Conservative plans to allow patients to use half the NHS cost of their operations to be treated privately.

He guaranteed the NHS would remain free at the point of use under Labour.

Tax rises?

In an interview with Channel 4 News, Mr Blair said National Insurance would not need to rise to fund the NHS after 2008, when current spending plans end.

But Labour has still not ruled out raising National Insurance - it says it cannot write Budgets now.

Mr Blair was joined at the Huddersfield rally by Mr David Blunkett, who resigned from the Cabinet earlier this year.

He saluted Mr Blunkett as one of the most special people he had ever worked with and said he wanted to see him "back where he belongs as soon as possible".

Mr Blunkett said so much of what Labour had been saying had been "drowned out" by Iraq.

But he urged well-off voters not to vote against Labour over the war "because it would be downright self indulgence of the worst order to abandon the British people to a Tory government".

The Conservatives claim it is Labour that is irresponsible with the economy and accuse the chancellor of notching up a multi-million pound black hole.

Iraq issue

Shadow treasury secretary George Osborne said voters had to choose between Labour's "higher taxation and more red tape" or "lower taxes and better value for money under the Conservatives".

Mr Blair spent much of the day campaigning with Chancellor Gordon Brown in marginal seats, including Gloucester, Telford and Preston.

Mr Blair's attempt to focus on the economy was knocked off course in Gloucester when he was confronted by a Muslim voter who opposed the Iraq war.

Tony Blair is confronted by Mohamed Jaffer in Gloucester
Tony Blair has faced increasing pressure over the Iraq war

Mohammed Jaffer, a mechanic, said: "I think you have done a fantastic job of running this country, but foreign policy you need to look at really close up.

"We have lost hundreds and hundreds of lives, thousands of lives.

"We got the impression you were just following President Bush."

Mr Jaffer urged Mr Blair to apologise to the public over Iraq, saying that was how Labour would win his vote.

The Labour leader acknowledged disappointment among some Labour supporters, but said overall, Labour's record was something to be proud of.

Cannabis

Mr Brown told BBC News that on Iraq the government acted in what it believed was the British national interest, adding: "We believed we were making the right decisions in the British national economic interests."

But his reference to economic interests was dismissed by a Labour spokesman as "just a slip of the tongue".

Mr Blair used Tuesday's campaign tour to announce the priority legislation for a Labour Queen's Speech.

They included plans to speed up the asylum process, restrict the sale of replica guns and raise the age limit for buying knives to 18.

Labour also plan a bill to extend maternity leave and pilot shared equity schemes for home ownership if they win an historic third term in office.

Mr Blair said he was strongly critical of Lib Dem drug policies, denouncing them as "crackers".

The Lib Dems say they are only proposing to support Labour's reclassification of cannabis from a class B to C - the move which Labour now say they are reconsidering.

But Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy said his party was "nothing other than tough" on drugs, with plans to jail drug dealers, more police and more drug rehabilitation.





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