I'm digging for victory ... wish you were here

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The Independent Online
Dear Tony,

This is just to show that while you're sunning yourself in Geoffrey Robinson's pounds 3m mansion in Tuscany, I'm hard at it, fighting for a Labour victory on the beach at Cleethorpes.

The weather here is a bit overcast, but the natives are friendly. They lapped up our campaign against "Tory lies", and I handed out bucket-loads of Labour campaign rock and whirly hats.

You should have seen the press I got this morning for my handling of the Clare Short row. Even the Guardian said I'd beaten Peter Mandelson at the spin doctoring.

On the seafront, I managed to sidestep questions about Clare's article in the New Statesman.

I told the press: "Cleethorpes is a key seat and we've got to make sure we win it. That's why I'm here."

I'm sending out letters to Labour MPs with the "spirit of '45" pamphlet as we agreed, emphasising the continuity between New Labour and the post-war Attlee government, which ushered in the Welfare State.

With your foreword, I'm drawing attention to the five evils, identified in the Beveridge report, of want, ignorance, disease, squalor and idleness, which the Attlee administration set out to tackle.

So you can see, New Labour is in safe hands while you're away. But I should warn you that there are some storm clouds on the horizon.

The opinion polls have been as mixed as the weather while you've been away. The Guardian ICM poll said our lead had slipped to 12 points, while Gallup in the Tory Telegraph said it had slipped to 25 points.

Peter Kellner in the Evening Standard said our lead over the Tories was probably about 20 points, so there's no room for complacency, as you're constantly telling us.

The resolutions for the TUC conference in September show that the unions are trying to make sure that we commit ourselves to a fixed figure of pounds 4.26 an hour. Arthur Scargill is also going to be there, banging the drum about scrapping all the Tory trade union legislation.

Labour activists are being urged by Labour CND to put forward motions at the Labour Party conference in October calling for the pounds 21bn defence budget to be cut by a third under a Labour government.

We've shrugged off past conference resolutions by CND supporters, but in the run-up to the election I know you'll want to ensure the Tories don't accuse of being weak on defence.

No doubt the press will repor it as "Macho Blair faces backlash", but by then, you'll be back. By the way, next week I'm off to America to meet one of my friends in the Democrats. I'll bring you a stick of rock.

Yours, John

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