Election '97: Labour landslide

Four days to go before Britain decides - and the polls predict

John Major faces a spectacular political defeat on Thursday. A batch of opinion polls which put him as many as 24 points behind Labour have fuelled a new bout of turbulence in Tory HQ.

An Independent on Sunday/ MORI poll gives Labour a 24-point lead over the Conservatives, with Tony Blair's party on 53, the Tories on 29 and the Liberal Democrats on 12. An NOP poll in today's Sunday Times gives Labour an 18-point lead, on 47 points, with the Conservatives on 29, the Liberal Democrats on 16 and others on 9.

A Gallup poll in the Sunday Telegraph gives Labour 48, the Conservatives 31, the Liberal Democrats 13 and others 5.

An ICM poll in Scotland on Sunday shows that three Scottish Cabinet ministers face losing their seats. Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth is 21 points behind Labour in Stirling, Ian Lang, President of the Board of Trade, is 11 behind the SNP in Galloway and Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind is 8 behind Labour in Edinburgh Pentlands. An ICM poll for the Observer indicates that Cabinet ministers Michael Portillo and Gillian Shephard could also lose their seats. ICM puts Labour on 47, Tories on 32 and Lib- Dems on 16.

Edwina Currie, the former minister, predicted a 100-strong Labour majority. She said a lot of the blame is "down to John Major". In the Express on Sunday she writes that when people "compare the records of Blair and Major, Blair comes across better". She predicts "a bloodbath in the Tory party" after 1 May.

With just four days to go, Mr Major was under pressure to make a last- ditch visit to Brussels campaign to stress his opposition to Euro-federalism.

The proposal, which caused a new row within the Conservatives' already rocky election machine, is opposed by Mr Rifkind, and other pro-Europeans.

Contenders to succeed Mr Major began making their presence felt, with John Redwood calling for a change in campaign themes to highlight education, and indications that Michael Portillo, Secretary of State for Defence, might refuse to serve in a Shadow Cabinet if Mr Major tried to remain leader in opposition.

With mounting evidence of division in the Tory high command over which issues to highlight in the final days of the campaign, two sources confirmed that the idea of a visit to Brussels by Mr Major had been canvassed by Eurosceptic colleagues, thought to include Lord Cranbourne, a close ally of Mr Major. Just three days are possibilities: tomorrow, when justice and home affairs are discussed in the European Union capital, and Tuesday and Wednesday, when foreign ministers meet in Luxembourg to debate the forthcoming inter-governmental conference. One source at Central Office said that the notion had been considered but discarded. Another said last week it was "not impossible" that the Prime Minister would visit the Continent before the general election.

Ironically, Labour considered a visit by Tony Blair to Brussels to illustrate his opposition to the integrationist agenda sketched out last week by Jacques Santer, Commission president. That was ruled out because Labour wanted a change of subject.

The unity of the Tory campaign was under mounting strain as John Redwood, who challenged Mr Major two years ago, called on Conservative Central Office to switch tactics and highlight Conservative proposals for schools.

If Mr Major is defeated, Mr Redwood is expected to announce early his intention to challenge for the Conservative leadership.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, was said to have a campaign team on standby. Other potential contenders include the Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke; the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine; the Secretary of State for Wales, William Hague and the Health Secretary, Stephen Dorrell.

Labour stepped up pressure on the Tories yesterday, producing the Conservatives' 200- page manifesto briefing document for party candidates. But the Conservatives dismissed opposition claims that this illustrated a pounds 10bn "black hole" in their finances, adding that the paper - distributed to 2,000 party workers - was prepared "on the same basis as our other exercise and is entirely consistent".

With four days to avert disaster there is evidence from inside Conservative Central Office of tension over the aggressive tactic adopted by the Tories when they accused Mr Blair of lying over pensions. Daniel Finkelstein, head of the Conservative Research Department, was said to be critical of the "slanging match" tone of the late campaigning.

Many Conservative MPs are convinced that the battle has been lost; one veteran of four elections said last week that a good result would be a Labour majority of 50 and that the Conservatives could be in a minority of as many as 150 seats.

Lord Holme, Liberal Democrat campaign manager, said: "It looks from all our evidence around the country as though the Conservatives are demoralised, finding it hard even to distribute leaflets and canvass, and heading for an historic defeat."

MORI's latest IoS/Sunday Mirror poll would give Labour a majority of 261 overall - not seen as realistic by any of the parties or by Robert Worcester, the chairman of MORI.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

Manager - SAS - Data Warehouse - Banking

£350 - £365 per day: Orgtel: Manager, SAS, Data Warehouse, Banking, Bristol - ...

Web Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – Up to £43k

£35000 - £43000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment