Feeling suicidal? I'm a Conservative

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It's the ultimate in political soft sell. John Kelly, a Tory candidate in the Stretford ward of Trafford in Greater Manchester, has decided to confront the Tories' woeful poll ratings head-on in an election leaflet which asks: "Are you depressed, unhappy, suicidal? - then think what it's like for me as a Conservative candidate in the present climate."

In what must rate as one of the most unusual election leaflets ever issued by one of the main parties, Mr Kelly adds: "It's not easy, and to be completely frank, I'm a bit ticked off about what the Government are doing at the moment. Education, VAT, tax increases. It's all a bit of a blow to your average Joe."

But Central Office will be heartened to hear that Mr Kelly's news is not all bad. "Every silver lining has a cloud. And there is one small fact in my favour."

The councillor of the Labour-controlled ward explains that the "silver lining" here is the "good old council tax".

Mr Kelly claims that the Conservative Trafford council is accepted by Tory strategists, including Jeremy Hanley, the party chairman, as a paragon of sensible spending, providing "wicked services at a wicked price".

Indeed, this slogan forms the centrepiece of a truly excruciating "poem" with which Mr Kelly has embarked on the task of wooing voters in territory that would be unpromising even in better times:

"For wicked services

at a wicked price,

think of your wallet (or purse),

and you won't think twice.

Labour will lift it,

Liberals they don't know,

so think Conservative,

and we'll keep it down low

(The council tax, that is.)"

For non-streetwise voters over the age of 30, and presumably for fear that the leaflet may not be taken seriously, Mr Kelly adds: "Wicked - this means good."