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Sunday, 3 June, 2001, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
Why Labour fears 'Queensland effect'

There is apparently concern at Labour headquarters that an election in 1995 in Queensland, Australia, could show the Conservatives the way to victory.

They fear the Tories could be attempting to copy the strategy of the conservative Liberal-National coalition when, despite being well behind in the polls, it came within a whisker of snatching victory.

What happened in Queensland?

In 1995 the ruling Labor party, which had been well ahead in the polls, saw its lead wiped out on election day by the Liberal-National coalition.

Although Labor had one more seat than its rivals, they lost power eight months later after a by-election.

The significance of the Australian state's election is that the opposition had apparently conceded defeat, instead running a campaign urging voters to register a protest against Labor.

What was the basis of the protest vote?

The Liberal-Nationals warned of the dangers of a landslide Labor win.

According to local journalist Peter Cain of the Northern Territory News, the Liberal-Nationals sent out the message "if you think Labor's arrogant now imagine what will happen if they win a big majority again".

Are there similarities between the position for the UK Labour Party and Queensland's Labor Party?

Well, Labor leader and the then premier, Wayne Goss, was popular, his party had a big lead in the opinion polls and pundits were forecasting an easy win.

All the opinion polls during the UK's current election campaign have given the Labour Party and its leader Tony Blair a big lead over opponents.

Anything else?

The economy was in good shape, unemployment was comparatively low and Labor had run a slick campaign but they ended up with 45 seats out of 89. Its vote fell 8% from the previous poll.

Mr Cain says: "In the case of Wayne Goss no-one could understand how he could possibly lose and we have a situation there which to all intents and purposes, Tony Blair looks as though he is over the line."

Why is this being talked about here?

According to some reports, officials at Labour's Millbank HQ are concerned the Queensland effect could be mirrored here.

Are there any signs that the Conservatives in the UK are mounting a similar campaign?

They would say they are fighting to win on issues like Europe, public services and tax cuts.

But there has been a change of focus in their campaign during the past few days, with a growing numbers of warnings about the prospect of a Labour landslide from the likes of former leader Baroness Thatcher.

On Sunday, William Hague urged voters to "clip Labour's wings" and his party unveiled a poster with the slogan "Burst his bubble" alongside a picture of Tony Blair.

What does Labour make of it?

Tony Blair is repeatedly urging supporters to vote in the election and playing down talk of landslides.

He says that the Tories are trying a "desperate last throw of the dice" and that they are seeking to win the election via the "back door"

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