Demon poster is back

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The Conservatives plan to deflect public attention from sleaze allegations this week with a campaign to scare voters about the economic price of backing Labour. Party strategists are also planning to bring back the controversial "demon eyes" poster to reinforce the "danger" in voting for Tony Blair.

John Major will highlight his economic theme this week by visiting a small business in the south of England. The company has been chosen to illustrate the theme that, under Labour, jobs would be lost because of the party's commitment to the Social Chapter and a minimum wage. The Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, is expected to boost the message, probably this week.

On Friday, the Conservatives launched a poster campaign at 4,500 sites, with the slogan "Britain is booming - don't let Labour blow it". But to show them up, Labour intends tightening up on sleaze at Westminster..

Senior Labour party sources said last week that Sir Gordon Downey, the Parliamentary Commissioner, should have stronger powers to investigate the behaviour of MPs and publish his findings. At present, Sir Gordon, whose report on the cash-for-questions scandal is due to be completed on Tuesday, must convey his findings to the Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges before publishing with its approval.

Under Labour's plans, the Commissioner would have greater scope for independent action, including the power to publish the outcome of investigations without asking MPs for their permission. Another proposal is a tougher stance on MPs' company directorships, so that they could only join a board if they had qualifications or experience relevant to the business.

Mr Major, visiting sheltered accommodation in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, yesterday, said he was "astonished" that Labour had "failed to back" Sir Gordon's condemnation of the Guardian's leak of his report. But Jack Straw, shadow Home Secretary, said: "The Conservatives have only themselves to blame for ... their drowning in a mire of sleaze."

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