Asylum is Tories' strong issue, says Gould

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Indy Politics

Immigration and asylum are the Tories' strongest cards in the election, Lord Gould of Brookwood, Labour's opinion poll guru, has told party leaders.

Immigration and asylum are the Tories' strongest cards in the election, Lord Gould of Brookwood, Labour's opinion poll guru, has told party leaders.

Lord Gould was presenting Labour's private polling figures yesterday, which also showed that the Government is heading for a third landslide victory. Labour's national executive committee was told that Labour's overall lead over the Tories had widened to nine per cent after the Budget.The figures were seen by Labour as a blow for the Conservative leader, Michael Howard.

The Labour campaign strategy team, led by Alan Milburn, believe that Mr Howard's use of Margaret Dixon, the elderly woman who had an operation for a broken arm put off seven times before it was completed this month, has backfired. A senior Labour source said: "Health and education have overtaken crime and immigration as the top issues. We are streets ahead of the Tories on health. It has been very damaging for Howard."

The polling showed that 77 per cent believed the Tories had exploited Mrs Dixon's case for political ends. Labour has a 21-point lead over the Tories when voters were asked "who is best on the economy", 18 points on education and 6 points on tax. Labour also have an 18-point lead on "who would do the best job on Iraq?"

Labour claimed last night that the Tories had hired a "dirty tricks expert" to boost their poll showing. Mark Textor, a market research expert who is working on the Tory campaign, was accused of "push-polling" - a technique that masks aggressive canvassing in the guise of opinion polling - in an Australian by-election in 1995.

In a clear signal that Labour are planning to launch personal attacks on Mr Howard, Mr Milburn said: "The issue of leadership will become increasingly important in this campaign. One issue that has become clear is Mr Howard's serial opportunism."

On spending, the polling also showed 66 per cent did not believe the Tories would be able to find £35bn in savings from waste in public services.

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