Labour bids to stop loss of Muslim voters

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Labour is to launch a campaign before the election to staunch the flow of support to the Liberal Democrats and the far-left Respect coalition among Muslim voters opposed to the Iraq war.

Labour is to launch a campaign before the election to staunch the flow of support to the Liberal Democrats and the far-left Respect coalition among Muslim voters opposed to the Iraq war.

Party leaders also want to appeal to trade unionists disillusioned with the Government by promoting their plans under the so-called "Warwick agreement" to give extra holiday and pensions rights to workers.

Labour will mount an unprecedented onslaught on the Liberal Democrats, because it fears the party could rob it of a Commons majority at the election expected on 5 May. Labour is likely to adopt nationally the strategy deployed at recent by-elections of labelling the Liberal Democrats as opportunistic and soft on crime.

Labour normally focuses overwhelmingly on the Tories, but the new strategy was agreed by the party's national executive committee.

Minutes of a two-day election-planning NEC meeting, obtained by The Independent, reveal the depth of Labour's fears about the fragility of its support. The minutes say: "There was a sense that we need to use the coming months to rebuild our alliances with the trade unions and ethnic minorities.

"This would involve building on the agreement reached at Warwick and working to regain those Muslim voters we had lost to the Liberal Democrats and, to a lesser extent, Respect."

The minutes also confirm that Labour acknowledges the need to "scrutinise and expose Lib Dem policies more closely".

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