Blair takes on dirty tricks claims with six pledges

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR will unveil tomorrow the six pledges focusing on the economy and public services which will form the cornerstone of Labour's general election campaign.

The 2005 pledge card, likely to include promises on child care, housing, health, education and the economy, will be published by Mr Blair during a whistlestop tour of Britain designed to offer a positive image of Labour after accusations of negative campaigning and "dirty tricks". The Prime Minister's tour will end at the party's spring conference in Gateshead, intended to be a "springboard" for the general election campaign.

Senior cabinet ministers will spend the weekend "cold calling" voters from the party's new call centre in the North-east, while 50 ministers will visit constituencies across the country during the three-day event.

Mr Blair will make a very public show of unity with Gordon Brown, launching the first pledge in London alongside the Chancellor. Mr Blair, Mr Brown and John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, will all make major speeches at the conference, ramming home the pre-elections messages.

The drive to move away from attacks on the Conservatives and put across Labour's positive message will start today with a policy pamphlet by five ministers. The document, Reform Works, will outline the New Labour programme championed by Blairites, arguing that a "one size fits all" approach is no longer appropriate for the delivery of modern public services.

Pledge cards will be distributed from tomorrow, when the party will start e-mailing its pledges to supporters. The card, featuring a picture of a smiling Tony Blair, will be headed: "Our pledge to ensure a better life for your and your family", reflecting Labour's desire to focus on the daily concerns of ordinary families. Ministers are also likely to repeat Labour's pledge not to raise rates of income tax, but the detail is still being discussed.

Alan Milburn, the party's general election co-ordinator, said: "These are our pledges to the British people, the cornerstone of what a third New Labour term would be about. People want to know, what are you going to do for me? [The] pledges will answer that question in very clear terms."

Mr Milburn said the party wanted a full dialogue with voters during the election campaign, heralding the use of the internet, e-mail and telephone canvassing as ways of connecting with a sceptical public.

Strategists were impressed with the use of this tactic in last year's US presidential elections.

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