Major under fire from both sides

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Tony Blair last night accused John Major of "feeble'' leadership and said the Tories were no longer fit to govern after Tory Euro-rebels rejected the Prime Minister's plea for party unity.

Staking Labour's claim to the centre ground of British politics, Mr Blair said: "Labour is back as the people's party, back in the mainstream, speaking up for the majority.''

John Major will hit back today by attacking Labour's plans for constitutional change, including the Monarchy, the national assemblies for Wales and Scotland, and abolition of hereditary peers.

The Prime Minister's hopes of lifting his party's morale in the New Year were raised by a CBI survey saying the economy should enjoy steady growth and the number of jobless was expected to fall in the next two years. Mr Major's offer of tax cuts in the next Budget was also welcomed by Tory right wingers.

But his problems with the Tory rebels continued yesterday as the MPs expelled from the Conservative Party remained defiant. Sir Teddy Taylor called on the Prime Minister to adopt a more Euro-sceptic stance to stay in tune with Tory voters. Senior Tory sources confirmed the Government will seek to break the nine rebels who have lost the whip by singling some out for an early return.

The Labour leader exploited the Conservative disarray on Europe. "They are so obsessed with their own internal divisions that they are incapable of addressing the needs of British people. Each problem they face is now to be measured only in terms of the effect on Tory factions. This is no way to govern,'' he said.

Heralding a dirty battle ahead, the Conservative Party chairman, Jeremy Hanley, last night published a dossier detailing allegations against Mr Blair and each of his Shadow Cabinet of CND membership and trade union links. The Tory dossier is the most explicit attempt since Mr Blair took over as leader to undermine the Labour leader's attempts to modernise his party's image.