Major's position on Europe

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The portrayal of Tony Blair as the British dummy on the knee of the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, was yesterday roundly denounced by Tories, Labour and the Germans as "puerile", "pathetic", and "pitiful". But John Major and his senior colleagues appeared delighted by the controversy and the raised profile of their campaign to paint Labour as a party of sell-out and surrender.

Elmer Brok, a senior MP from the German Christian Democrat Party, who is to represent the European Parliament at the Amsterdam summit for heads of government in June, said the advertisement was pitiful. "It just goes to show how desperate the Conservative Party has become," he said. "We should be partners with Britain in building Europe - not fighting a battle."

While Labour dismissed the attack as pathetic, the former Foreign Secretary Lord Howe urged that the advertisement not be used again, and Edwina Currie, the former Tory minister, called it "puerile". Conservative pro-Europeans are increasingly concerned by the way in which the Prime Minister has raised the stakes on his European campaign - and the way he appears to be "singing from John Redwood's hymn sheet". But Mr Major and Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, laughed off the criticism at their daily election press conference yesterday.

The Prime Minister said that Helmut Kohl was a "doughty fighter" for German interests - unlike Mr Blair, who had already offered six surrenders before he had even entered the negotiations. The Labour leader was telling the Germans and the French, "I've changed my red flag for a white flag, here are my surrenders, please can I have a seat; if you don't have a seat I'll have a knee."

Last night, Mr Major went even further in his attack on Mr Blair, telling a Manchester rally that on Europe, the Labour leader had changed "from withdrawal through indecision to unconditional surrender". He added: "Mr Blair changes his mind as often as a grasshopper jumps."