Election '97: It's a fight to the death

Blair lets rip as his poll lead slips; 'The election will be the last fought on ideology and politics as well' - Tony Blair yesterday

Tony Blair last night presented the voters with the "nightmare" prospect of a fifth-term Tory government, as one opinion poll showed Labour's lead slipping into single figures - reinforcing this week's Independent constituency survey findings that the election was still wide open.

Repeating the message of Monday's Labour Party election broadcast, the Labour leader said during a visit to Luton: "You can wake up on May 2 to another five years of the most discredited, sleazy government, or you can wake up to a fresh start under a new Labour government."

Reacting to the narrowing of one poll, by ICM for the Guardian newspaper, while another by Gallup for the Daily Telegraph confusingly showed Labour's lead over the Conservatives widening to 21 points - an increase of five points since last week - Labour strategists decided to unleash the dire warning of the consequences of more than 20 years of one-party rule.

Labour is warning that if the Tories are re-elected for a fifth term, the voters can expect them to slap value-added tax on food, to sell off of old people's homes, and to abolish the state pension.

"This is the fifth-term Tory threat from a re-elected Conservative government and every voter should bear this in mind when polling day comes on Thursday next week," the Labour Party's campaign manager Peter Mandelson, said earlier.

But the frighteners were also being applied by the Conservatives, too, as both main parties entered the final stages of a do-or-die campaign that will see the losing party - whether Conservative or Labour - become embroiled in internal power struggles and bitter left-right recrimination.

In a Conservative election broadcast that was transmitted last night, Labour was depicted as a party that has severed all its roots in its search for power.

The party was shown as a tree without roots - unable to stand up to the first puff of wind.

As workmen unsuccessfully try to keep the tree upright, a commentator says: "A tree without roots cannot withstand the slightest pressure. A party without roots doesn't stand for anything and doesn't stand for long ...

"Cutting off your roots and ditching your principles may make you look electable, but it's very dangerous in government."

But Mr Blair yesterday said he had been "squeezed" between forces that complained Labour was "principled but entirely unelectable" or electable but unprincipled. Presenting the possibility of an end of ideological politics, Mr Blair said at a London Press Club awards lunch that next week's election was not just the last one of the 20th century, but probably, also, the last election to be fought on the basis of ideology and politics as well".

The Labour leader said that during the late 1960s Labour had "got stuck in dogma and outdated ideology ... from which we spent the next quarter of a century escaping."

He said that the simplest way to explain what had happened was to put it in personal terms.

"In a sense, I am modern man," he said. "I am somebody of my own generation, a generation that's grown up without the tags of easy political simplicities of left and right."

The battles between public and private sectors, between the state and the market, between privatisation and nationalisation, were things of the past.

"There's nothing unprincipled about saying that. That is the honest truth about the nature of the modern world," Mr Blair said.

"New Labour is true to its values, but applies those values in a different way to today's world, that is, in fact, where British politics needs to be." While insisting that he shared the same basic values as Labour leaders of the past such as Keir Hardie, Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson, he that said he had "liberated" Labour from the old prescriptions.

Mr Blair said: "The problem is that our opponents would say, and people say, if you don't stand for the past, you stand for nothing. That is the nonsense that is at the heart of the campaign against us."

He said that the elections of the future would be fought on a completely different basis. But that did not mean that there would be no battlegrounds.

"The issues of isolationism versus internationalism will be a critical dividing line. The whole question of the idea of society versus a narrow form of individualism, how we reform the welfare state ...

"The differences will be there, and they will be real, but they won't be in the same way debated and argued about as they have been."

John Major, campaigning in Scotland, said he believed "the whole United Kingdom is immensely stronger because Scotland is part of the UK and passionately believed that is where it should remain for the future". The Prime Minister said he believed in the Union was a matter of principle, whether or not there were a majority of non-Tory MPs north of the border.

"If we were going to go down the devolution route, and I understand the proud aspirations of a proud nation ... we would be heading inexorably for a conflict between an Edinburgh parliament and a Westminster parliament and independence for Scotland and the break-up of the United Kingdom as we know it."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
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