Election '97 : One nation once more?

Four weeks into the election campaign John Major and Tony Blair will today finally turn the political focus on to divided Britain with an appeal to voters who want a return to the united, One Nation values repudiated during the Thatcher years.

The similarity of the message from the two party leaders is no coincidence, but rather a reflection of an underlying concern of the electorate; that society has become too dangerously divided.

The two appeals, however, could not be couched in more brutally different terms.

For the Tories, Mr Major says in an exclusive article for today's Independent that he speaks from first-hand experience of inner-city deprivation; that he went into politics to help the "have-nots"; and the voters should not trust new Labour, ravenous for power and mouthing pieties behind the smile.

"When I speak about the classless society," the Tory leader says, "I have in mind the sort of people amongst whom I grew up. They deserve opportunity and choice. They should not be fobbed off with fine words and an easy smile."

For Labour, Mr Blair will today make a speech built around the re-creation of a decent, One Nation community. A senior adviser said last night that there was a growing fear of a break-up of society, with the "haves" showing increasing concern about unemployment, crime and disorder.

In today's speech, the Labour leader says: "All my adult life, I have kept to the simple beliefs that we achieve more together than we do alone. The rights we enjoy are matched by the duties we owe ... I personally believe a divided society is wrong for both moral and economic reasons, yet we are more divided than ever."

The bids of the two leaders for the same political territory, at the same time during the election campaign, with little more than a fortnight to go to polling day, suggests a dramatic make-or-break play for a critical slice of middle-ground votes - informed by similar results from private polling.

Mr Major's message to the Independent was reinforced by a briefing he gave yesterday in which he said that he had been forced in the past to concentrate on getting the economy "on a even keel". Before that had been achieved, he would have been talking into "empty air" if he had attempted to tackle other issues such as improving the state pension, the inner cities and education in the midst of a recession.

"It's perfectly true to say that I feel liberated in the sense that I can now address the social agenda that I have always cared about, that lay behind what I said about a classless society in early speeches. I can now do so against an economic climate where it is practical politics to do something about it."

In his Independent article, Mr Major says that the fundamental truth about Tory government is "that we have governed for the many, and not the few".

Mr Blair will today dissect that claim in a long-planned speech that draws together seven elements of Labour policy - separate policy packages on education, health, pensions, crime, housing, welfare, and social institutions, like the family.

Labour has argued throughout the campaign, and before, that it is fighting for the interests of the many, not the few, for example with its plans to phase out the assisted places scheme to help finance a reduction in class sizes for children aged five, six and seven.

But Labour is also saying that its welfare-to-work proposals, financed by a windfall tax on privatised utilities, is going down very well with the voters, while people are "terrified" about the prospect of pensions "privatisation".

Mr Blair says today: "There is a section of the population for whom work - the habits, the rewards - is now alien."

He argues that neither the Tories nor Mr Major have achieved the classless society that Mr Major said he wanted when he took office.

Mr Major's achievement, Mr Blair says, is that Britain is now top of the league in the Group of Seven industrialised countries - for the number of families without work; up from one-in-twelve back in 1979, to one-in- five.

The Conservative leader said yesterday: "The Tory party isn't one dimensional, you see. People think it's about efficiency ... "but [that] is only half the Tory party. The other half has always been used to a great deal of social change."

Labour's lead is holding, according to new polls from MORI and ICM. MORI, in yesterday's London Evening Standard, had Labour's lead unchanged on 21 points. ICM in today's Guardian shows the gap widening slightly to 14 points, compared to last week's 12-point margin. As usual, ICM reported a high Liberal Democrat share, at 19 per cent, with Labour lower, on 45 per cent, than other polls. Tony Blair's personal rating fell five points in the ICM poll, to 35 per cent, against 28 per cent for John Major, down one.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

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
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?