Blair plans confidence vote to topple Major

Labour is planning a vote of no confidence in the Government if the Conservatives lose the Wirral South by-election - a threat that could force John Major to opt for an early election.

With the disappearance of the Tories' Commons majority, a no confidence vote would leave the nine Ulster Unionist MPs with the power to decide the Government's fate and place them under huge pressure to ditch the Prime Minister.

Already they are under attack in Northern Ireland from the rival Democratic Unionist Party, for supporting Mr Major's administration. Ian Paisley's DUP would certainly exploit any role played by David Trimble's nine-strong UUP in saving the Prime Minister. That could cost the UUP seats both in the general election and in May local elections in Northern Ireland.

Today a poll in the Wirral constituency indicates that Labour are indeed heading for a resounding victory. The MORI poll in the Mail on Sunday gives Labour a 19-point lead, on 54 per cent, with the Tories on 35 per cent and the Lib Dems trailing on 10 per cent. If this were repeated at the poll itself, Labour would romp home with a 7,400-vote majority.

Asked about a motion of confidence last week, a senior Labour source said: "We have made no moves so far because we have not been certain of the numbers. When we are, that's when we will move. We want to get rid of the Government as soon as possible."

If the Opposition wins a convincing victory in Wirral South, as expected, failure to table a motion of no confidence could be seen as a sign of timidity.

Worries about a parliamentary defeat following from the by-election lie behind the Prime Minister's determination to keep the early election option open. Evidence of a deck-clearing operation last week includes:

t Moves to rush out the Conservative Campaign Guide, the "bible" for Tory candidates that spells out the party's record and its policies. Initially due to be available on 14/15 March, this will be ready in a week's time.

t Plans to wind up the political talks in Northern Ireland within the next two weeks.

t Failure of Government whips to discuss any Commons business beyond the next two weeks with the Ulster Unionists.

t Advanced general election preparations at Conservative Central Office, including claims that planes have been chartered.

Mr Major has twice declined to state categorically that the by-election will take place as scheduled on 27 February.

Tory strategists concede that, while the predicted loss might not wreck their election prospects, combined with a vote of no confidence it could prove fatal.

Conservative Central Office has lined up two platform speeches for Mr Major in the next weeks, either of which could be used to launch a campaign proper. He addresses the Welsh Conservative Party conference on Friday, then, a week later, a local government conference in Birmingham. Tory sources see this second speech as an increasingly likely springboard.

The two parties have the same number of Commons seats following the death last month of Labour MP Martin Redmond. Only if Labour wins in Wirral South will the Conservatives again be a minority.

Campaigning continued yesterday when Mr Blair told his party's local government conference he would reverse "the mismatch between spending on education and unemployment".

By-election report, page 4

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine