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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 10:23 GMT
Apathy and enthusiasm

Wednesday's British newspapers are full of analysis of the prospects for the major parties in the general election.

The Independent says that for Labour, apathy among the electorate is the main problem.

The paper suggests that Prime Minister Tony Blair's aides fear that the whole political process could be undermined by a low turnout - and as a result even a second Labour landslide would lack legitimacy.

It thinks that, for William Hague, the prospects are not as gloomy as his detractors make out.

It says that senior Conservatives believe their man has been severely underestimated by the media and could pull off a surprise result.

As for the Liberal Democrats, the paper suggests that the Tories will be their major target and they could end up with "a fist full of Tory scalps".

The Mirror, which backs Labour, urges its readership to back the party or face a catastrophe with huge cuts for hospitals and schools.

It also raises the spectre of massive job losses.

The Daily Mail's editorial expresses fear for the future of "the disastrous state of our core public services".

It suggests that the political parties seem unwilling to address the problems facing health and welfare.

The health service, the paper argues, is not working but casts doubt over whether that will prompt a fundamental rethink of funding for the NHS.

"If genuine debate is sacrificed to stunts and spin, the consequences will inevitably be apathy, a lamentably low turn-out and a further erosion of democracy," it argues.

The Daily Telegraph attacks what it calls Tony Blair's "stage-managed" announcement of the election at a south London school.

Picturing the prime minister singing hymns with pupils at the school, it has the headline: "Here beginneth Blair's crusade."

In an editorial the paper argues that voters will soon wonder why they are paying more money in tax without receiving any compensating benefit.

The political sketch writers, who were among those to witness Mr Blair's speech at the school, were largely disparaging of what they witnessed.

Guardian columnist Simon Hoggart said: "Even by the high standards of this lot, it made for a deeply cynical occasion."

In The Telegraph, Frank Johnson called the event "a disturbing occasion".

Quentin Letts, writing in The Mail, was even more scathing.

He wrote that it was "the tackiest, tinniest political event I have yet been to".

While The Independent said the occasion was "cheesier than a Wotsits factory".

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