Labour warns of one-party state

Latest campaign concedes the possibility of a fifth Tory term
Click to follow
Labour last night warned of the risk of a "one-party state" if the Tories win a fifth term in the election. Robin Cook, the shadow Foreign Secretary, is to launch a new Labour campaign tomorrow, in which he will warn of the risks of another Tory government.

"What our campaign will show is that the real risk is a fifth term, and the Tory party beginning to feel that they can get away with anything because we live in a one-party state," he said last night.

"People should think twice about the devil they know, before they get burnt again."

In a speech to Scottish Labour MPs last night, the party leader, Tony Blair, said: "Make no mistake about the desperation of the Tories. They will do anything, say anything, to hang on to power. They think they have a divine right to rule ...

"The Tory fifth term does not bear thinking about. The collapse of the health service. Another explosion of crime. Falling further down the educational league. No devolution, no Scottish Parliament and a threat to the Union from a government which refuses to listen. You know my mantra against complacency. I say it again tonight. Nothing is guaranteed. There is as yet not a single vote won." The defeatist and high-risk strategy of conceding the chance of Conservative victory has been deliberately taken by the Labour leadership because of real fears that John Major could capitalise on the strong public perception - even among Tory voters - that Labour will win.

That view is thought to be so strong that Labour believes not only that its supporters might take victory for granted and not bother to vote, but that some marginal Tory supporters might give Mr Major a sympathy vote in the belief that he cannot possibly win. "Those factors combined, could help the Tories to victory," one Labour source said. Tomorrow's Labour campaign will be based on the party's private polling evidence that fear of Labour is far outweighed by fear of what a fifth Tory government would do - running down the NHS; reducing school choice; allowing crime to rise; and increasing taxes.

Fuelling speculation - and sowing confusion - about election timing, Mr Major yesterday told reporters covering his tour of Pakistan that he might yet hold out for a 1 May election.

Mr Major said: "I am prepared to play it long, yes, of course I am prepared to play it long." He said that while his party would, naturally, be ready for the election when he chose to call it, "We would prefer to have the election a little later. I suspect that we will ... We wish to see the effects of our policies flow through."

He added: "I think when we get into the election campaign, when people begin to focus on the policies of the two parties, that is when they will ask serious questions. "They will say, are things going right now and would they change if we changed government and changed policies?"

He said Labour's support was "quite wide but not very deep", and he said Labour had been in opposition for so long that they had become "so good at it they should stay there."