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The BBC's Johnathan Beale
"All three parties realise a low turnout on Thursday will hardly be a ringing endorsement"
 real 56k

The BBC's Shaun Ley
"William Hague denies that the election tide is running against him"
 real 56k

The BBC's Robin Chrystal
"This new poster is a direct appeal to voters to wipe the smile off Tony Blair's face"
 real 56k

Peter Cain, of Northern Territory News,
says that victory is not certain for Tony Blair
 real 28k

Sunday, 3 June, 2001, 19:42 GMT 20:42 UK
Landslide row bubbles up
Conservative election poster
The advert plays up Tory fears of a Labour landslide
The parties are exchanging increasingly bitter blows in an attempt to win support over the final weekend of the campaign.

The Conservatives have launched a poster campaign urging voters to burst Tony Blair's "bubble" and deprive him of a landslide victory.

A landslide victory for any party is not good for democracy

Dr David Hope,
Archbishop of York
The prime minister has accused the Tories of trying to sneak into Downing Street by the back door and has called for a strong mandate for Labour.

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to attract support away from both parties.

And a leading member of the Church of England has waded into the row over a possible Labour landslide.

Dr David Hope, Archbishop of York, said: "A landslide victory for any party is not good for democracy."

Polls published in newspapers on Sunday suggest that although Labour's lead has suffered slightly over the past week the party is still heading for a crushing victory.

Queensland effect

The Tories are attempting to head off that prospect with a poster featuring a grinning Mr Blair inside a bubble about to be burst by a pin and the slogan: "Go on, burst his bubble."

There is speculation that the campaign move actually amounts to an admission that election defeat looms and the Tories' target now is to limit Labour's majority.

Prime Minister Tony Blair
Mr Blair wants a strong mandate
But Labour is seeking to play down expectations of a landslide, and to avoid the so-called 'Queensland effect'.

This refers to the Australian state's election in 1995 when opposition parties triggered a last minute surge in votes, against the odds, after apparently throwing in the towel and asking voters to limit the size of the government's majority.

Tony Blair described the Tory strategy as a "desperate last throw of the dice".

He added: "The Conservative strategy now is to sneak in through the back door and it's important, if people believe in the strong economy we are providing and investment in public services, then come and give us your strength and support."

Addressing the GMB union conference in Brighton, Chancellor Gordon Brown said: "The Tories are not really trying to win voters' approval, because they can't. They are simply trying to win voters' apathy."

Hague attacks

Tory leader William Hague told cheering party supporters in Fulham, South West London, that Labour was arrogant and undemocratic.

He said: "If you are among the many millions that want to clip Labour's wings, or sling them out all together, you can only wipe the smile off their face by voting Conservative."

Party chairman Michael Ancram accused Tony Blair of pursuing an "unremittingly deceitful strategy" to win over voters.

William Hague
Mr Hague said Labour was arrogant and undemocratic
He added: "Blair is an incompetent manager. He is, in many ways, the epitome of 'pigeon' management. Fly in, make a mess, and then fly out again."

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, buoyed by gains in Sunday's opinion polls, moved to win over disillusion Labour and Conservative supporters.

Speaking on the campaign trail in South London, he said people who wanted better public services and a strong opposition party should vote for the Lib Dems.

Opinion polls

"A Lib Dem vote this time gives Tony Blair the marching orders that he has been asking for which is we want not just Labour levels of investment in schools, hospitals, pensions and police, we want Liberal Democrat levels of investment in these things," he said

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy
Mr Kennedy is trying to attract Labour and Tory voters
"It also sends a very important signal to the Tory party that the country needs decent and effective opposition politics if there is to be a second term Labour government."

The overall picture from the polls published on Sunday suggests a grim election verdict ahead for the Conservatives with Labour leads of between 12% and 23%. The Lib Dems are between 10% and 19% behind the Tories.

A survey by ICM for the News of the World - covering the 139 most marginal seats where the Tories came first or second in 1997 - suggests a Labour Commons majority of 197, compared with its present 179.

However, the poll used small sample sizes and has a margin of error of +/- 5%.


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