Tory election hopes fade

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pounds pounds Labour and the Liberal Democrats last night tried to dampen expectations of Conservative losses in today's local elections in spite of what promises to be the Tories' worst local election performance in history, writes Donald Macintyre.

Each of the opposition parties is expected to gain at least 500 seats, but they fear that a failure to inflict total losses on the Tories of 2,000 could be greeted by Tory politicians as a relative success.

The Prime Minister is expected to confront any potential opponents in his public comments on the election outcome and potential dissidents are being warned that their names will become public if they seek to undermine his leadership in a written "round robin" demanding a change.

Meanwhile, James Cran, one of the architects of the revolt against the Maastricht Bill in 1993 and a strong member of the Unionist tendency within the Tory party, was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Patrick Mayhew, the Northern Ireland Secretary.

Tories prepare for losses, page 2

Liberal Democrats' fear, page 6

News Analysis, page 15

Leading article, page 16