Labour warns of economic instability if Tories take power

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair today launches Labour's campaign for the "super Thursday" elections on 10 June with a strong warning that the Tories would wreck the economic stability delivered by Labour since 1997.

Labour, which fears a "bloody nose" in the elections for local authorities and the European parliament, will highlight the choice between the two main parties on national issues, turning the campaign into a dry run for the general election expected next year. It will contrast Labour's economic record with the recessions, job losses and negative equity of the Tory years in power.

Mr Blair hopes the elections will switch the political spotlight away from Iraq and on to domestic matters. He will issue a document about public services when he launches Labour's local government campaign in Leeds with Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, and John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister.

The election battle begins on the 25th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher moving in to Downing Street. Labour will portray the Tory leader, Michael Howard, as an unreconstructed Thatcherite who would take Britain back to the problems of the Tory era.

Ian McCartney, the Labour Party chairman, said yesterday: "Twenty-five years ago Margaret Thatcher said she would bring harmony and hope, but the reality was mass unemployment and two deep and damaging recessions.

"Three million people were out of work as interest rates and inflation soared. Michael Howard may be nostalgic for this time, when he was Employment Secretary and unemployment rose by one million, but for the British people it is a reminder of a failed Tory past for which hard working families had to pay the price."

In contrast, Mr Blair, Mr Brown and Mr Prescott will highlight Labour's record on employment. Labour will also campaign on a "things have got better" theme, claiming that voters are gradually realising improvements in the economy, health, education.

"They know the country has worked too hard and come too far to throw it all away by letting the Tories wreck it again," a Labour source said last night.

Michael Howard, facing his first test at the ballot box since becoming Tory leader in November, will launch his party's campaign for the local elections in Birmingham - a key battleground on 10 June. The Tories will outline their 10 key principles of good local government, contrasting the "better performance" of Tory-run councils with the "poor record" of Labour and Liberal Democrats.

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