PM in attack on 'mad' Labour

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The Independent Online
JOHN MAJOR launched a bitter attack on Labour and the Liberal Democrats yesterday as he began his party's local election campaign with a promise to cut taxes again as soon as possible, writes Stephen Castle.

In a clear attempt to repeat the Tories' general election winning formula, Mr Major tried to regain the initiative over tax, and claimed that votes for the Liberal Democrats 'opened the Town Hall door for Labour'.

In one of his most strongly worded speeches Mr Major said Labour's plans for Europe were 'pure madness', that it practised 'a spiteful policy' towards City Technology Colleges, and that the opposition were the 'abominable no-men in education' - blocking government reforms.

Admitting for the first time that the Conservatives were 'going to have to fight hard to win' in the local elections, Mr Major hinted that taxes would be cut before the next general election.

He told the party's local government conference in London: 'We didn't put them up because we wished to. We did it because we had to,' adding: 'We remain by instinct a tax- cutting party - the only tax- cutting party in this country. And when it is possible to cut taxes again we will.'

That brought a counter- blast from the shadow Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who accused the Prime Minister of 'attempting to perpetrate a fraud on the British people', adding: 'The party which is responsible for the equivalent of 7p in the pound on tax will never be seen as the low tax, honest tax, fair tax party.'

Harriet Harman, shadow Chief Secretary, published a document which showed that only those on pounds 64,000 or more are paying less tax than in 1979, and that families on average earnings of pounds 20,000 will pay pounds 12.50 more tax in April and pounds 22 from April 1995.

The Prime Minister struck a new note of conciliation over the Conservatives' controversial local government review. He told his audience, made up of local councillors, that 'all through this process government's doors will be open. John Gummer (Secretary of State for the Environment) and David Curry (the Local Government minister) will take your views fully into account before coming to any final decisions.'