Morale-raising pep talk sends troops to battle

Election Countdown
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The Independent Online
Labour support is "a mile wide but an inch deep", John Major told party workers at Conservative Central Office last night in a hard-hitting speech to raise morale for the election battle, writes Colin Brown.

Mr Major's pep talk to staff was reinforced by a rallying call to the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs in an attempt to send backbenchers off to their constituencies with a hope of winning against all the odds.

Underlining the difficulty he faces in convincing his party that he can win against Labour's massive lead in the opinion poll, Mr Major sought to convince his troops that the support for Labour was shallow.

He also made his most bitter attack so far against Tony Blair's New Labour Party. "I loathe socialism," Mr Major declared. "I loathe Labour and I loathe what they have done to our country. I loathe what they are still doing in Sheffield and Camden and councils up and down the country."

Reviving memories of the Winter of Discontent, he said that in 1979, the "real question was whether Britain was governable." He contrasted that with his view of the Tory record. "Today, nobody would dream of asking that question."

He said the Tories had transformed the country with its reforms of the NHS, the trade unions and education. He repeated his message that "Britain is booming", but said Labour would put that all at risk. Its slogan that it was "time for a change" would mean a change that would "destroy everything that is right about Britain today. We won the battle of ideas and with your help we will win the battle for hearts and minds of Britain in this election," he said.

Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, meanwhile, told a meeting in The Hague that the Dutch presidency of the European Union had made a significant concession to Britain's demands to keep its border controls. He said the Dutch Minister for Europe, Michael Patijan, had conceded that the removal of border controls would not be brought within the treaty being negotiated at the Intergovernmental Conference in June.