European Elections: Tories to focus on legal 'threat' to jobs: Main parties prepare for an intense campaign delayed after the death of John Smith

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Indy Politics
THE foreshortenend European election campaign is to open this weekend when Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, unveils some of the main Tory themes in advance of the party's planned manifesto launch on Monday.

The Conservative move - held back until the day after the funeral of John Smith, the Labour leader, will be balanced by the Welsh Labour conference in Swansea which some of the party's senior figures are expected to use as a launchpad for the Euro-campaign.

The manifestos of all three parties will come out on Monday - leaving the way for two and half weeks of intensive campaigning before polling day on 9 June. Among other themes planned by the Tories, ministers are expected to emphasise the threat to jobs they claim will be posed by the social regulation sought by Labour.

Although the party is braced for heavy losses, senior ministers believe the internal pressures on John Major - who plans to lead the campaign with more than half a dozen regional tours and a series of press conferences - will be relieved by his decision to continue as Prime Minister whatever the turbulence caused by the outcome.

Cabinet sources also insist that there is clear agreement among senior ministers - including those on the Euro-sceptic wing of the party - that they will not use the campaign to stake out their different shades of opinion on Europe.

The task of co-ordinating ministerial pronouncements has been made easier partly because the Tory leadership has receded - at least for the time being - as an issue, and also because Mr Hurd, while insisting that the Tories adopt a positive stance towards Europe, has begun setting out his view of Europe as 'multi-track'.

The view, which helps to define Britain's role as at the centre on issues such as the single market, defence, and foreign policy but markedly less so in respect of the single currency and the social chapter, is seen as congenial to most of those outside the ranks of the most hardened Euro-phobes.

In a parallel move the Shadow Cabinet yesterday agreed that there would be a 'short, sharp and hard' campaign in which the party would seek to avoid any distractions posed by the impending leadership contest. It agreed that no candidate should declare himself until after 9 June.

The Liberal Democrats, also preparing to launch their manifesto and optimistic of gaining seats in the European Parliament for the first time, have already stolen a march on the other parties by committing themselves to a referendum or other test of public opinion on proposals for the future of the EU.