Government faces embarrassing isolation as Tories prepare to withdraw backing for Millennium Dome

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The Independent Online
Senior Conservatives yesterday indicated that the Opposition is about to withdraw support from the Millennium Dome project - which was initiated by the last government.

While official sources said it was "early days" and "a grotesque exaggeration" to say that the party was about to drop bipartisan support for the Greenwich scheme, other more authoritative sources suggested that support had already been withdrawn and it was only a matter of time before an outright, public attack was launched.

Given that Tony Blair took the decision to go ahead with the project against the advice of many of his senior ministers, insisting that the Government had to mark the millennium with a high-profile project, the Tory U-turn could leave the Prime Minister embarrassingly isolated if the scheme goes wrong. The current plan is for a dome that would cost about pounds 750m, with much of the funding coming from the lottery.

But many Labour MPs feel that the money would be much better spent on millennium projects in their own constituencies, with investment in education and health a priority.

The Independent has been told that soundings have been taken among members of the shadow cabinet, and there are few signs of any enthusiasm for continuing support.

"I wouldn't say that anyone is more than lukewarm at best," one source said, "apart from a solitary figure in an arboretum in Northamptonshire" - a reference to Michael Heseltine, the former Deputy Prime Minister, who was appointed a millennium commissioner by Mr Blair soon after the election.

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