First the good news, then Tories get the bad news

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The Independent Online
Conservative Party attempts to promote the "good news" about the Government's record backfired yesterday when a businessman featured in a partypaper said he was likely to vote Labour at the next election.

Look! - the Tory tabloid launched by Brian Mawhinney, the party chairman, said a Swindon firm, Boxes and Packaging, was typical of the small companies taking advantage of "Britain's enterprise-friendly economy and the Conservative government's staunch resistance to placing a burden on business".

It said Shearer Sellars, the boss of the firm, "strongly opposes" Labour policies which would "let politicians and unions meddle in the management of firms". But yesterday Mr Shearer said he was impressed by Tony Blair and was thinking of voting Labour. "On their current record and on their achievements, I certainly couldn't vote Conservative. They don't deserve it," he said.

John Prescott, deputy leader of the Labour Party, said it showed that Dr Mawhinney was becoming as "gaffe prone" as his predecessor, Jeremy Hanley, and should be moved in the next Cabinet reshuffle. Conservative Central Office retorted: "It was never our intention that Look! would be full of articles about fully paid-up members of the Conservative Party. If this is all John Prescott can complain about, it is really pretty feeble."

Meanwhile, the former Conservative Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath warned yesterday that it was too late for his party to regain popularity with the voters in time for next month's council elections.

In a stark assessment of the Tories' electoral chances, he accused the party of losing touch with the people and rounded on right-wingers demanding tax cuts.

In a separate warning of impending disaster for the Tories, Lord McAlpine of West Green, the former party treasurer, said that the Tories were heading like stampeded cattle for general election defeat. Lord McAlpine, a Thatcherite who has been critical of John Major's leadership in the past, said the party was heading for self-destruction after the defeat in the Staffordshire South East by-election, the second worst result for the Tories since the war.