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TRUST ME: Tony Blair plans to sack political appointees on NHS Trust Boards and merge trusts in a drive to save money for patient care in the health service. The Labour leader warned yesterday that the Secretary of State for Health in a Blair administration "will have the power to replace trust boards", and promised pounds 100m would be saved to enable an extra 100,000 patients to be treated. All health trusts and health authorities will be required to reduce their management costs to the level of the most efficient 25 per cent.

REPLACING SMITH: Beaconsfield Conservative Constituency Association yesterday chose its barrister, Dominic Grieve, as replacement candidate after the shock resignation of its MP, Tim Smith, in the wake of the cash-for-questions row. Mr Grieve, 40, married with two young sons, was part of John Major's campaign team during the 1992 election. His father, WP Grieve QC, was MP for Solihull between 1964 and 1983.

CREDIBILITY GAP: The Conservatives stepped up pressure on Labour over the "black hole" in its spending plans, claiming the Opposition was in disarray over privatisation of the National Air Traffic System. Last week Gordon Brown, shadow Chancellor, said he would consider the sale of the system.

GRANDFATHER PADDY: Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown is putting his first grandchild before election campaigning. He told reporters that he and his wife, Jane, were on standby to go to France right after the imminent birth of the child to his daughter, Kate, 31, who lives in Burgundy. "When that child is born you will not see me for dust," he said.

HEZZA'S ISSUE: The Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine, stopped to buy a copy of the Big Issue during a brisk walkabout in south London with Battersea Tory MP John Bowis yesterday, and declared as he brandished the magazine: "The big issue of this campaign is tax." Most passers-by seemed happy, if surprised, to meet him.

DREAM ENDED: The fledgling political movement founded by George Weiss, a drinking partner of the late comedian Peter Cook, has come up against its first hurdle. The Rainbow Dream Ticket Leisure Party Alliance had planned to field the same candidate, Ronnie Carroll, in 50 constituencies to qualify for a party political broadcast. On Thursday the BBC vetoed Mr Weiss's plan. He now hopes to find 49 candidates to stand for the party, under the campaign slogan "Free Home Rule for Everyone".

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