Mandela to be Blair's secret weapon

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Indy Politics

Nelson Mandela will help launch Tony Blair's general election campaign at Labour's annual conference in Brighton next week. The former South African president will take centre stage for the final day of the conference to give a morale-boosting seal of approval to the Prime Minister.

Nelson Mandela will help launch Tony Blair's general election campaign at Labour's annual conference in Brighton next week. The former South African president will take centre stage for the final day of the conference to give a morale-boosting seal of approval to the Prime Minister.

Labour strategists believe Mr Mandela, who has saint-like status in the eyes of many of the party's supporters, will galvanise the election effort.

He will be followed on the platform by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, who will close the conference with a call to prepare for the election, and an outline of the election programme - which is based on thepromises of higher spending on public services.

Mr Blair, meanwhile, is preparing an order to his cabinet ministers that will demand ceasing co-operation with authors working on books about current political figures. "We are going to tell the Cabinet to stop all the speculation," a senior government source said. "There will have to be an end to all these books until after the election."

Downing Street has been worried that its strategy was being blown off course by reports about Mo Mowlam being undermined by Mr Blair, and by the newspapers' serialisation of books covering the economic policy rows between Gordon Brown and the Prime Minister.

An updated version of a Peter Mandelson biography, to be serialised in the Independent this week, is likely to rekindle controversy over the present Northern Ireland Secretary's role as a "king maker".

The Prime Minister, who will thrash out the final plans for the election campaign at a cabinet summit this week, is keen to contrast the Government's spending programme with the threat of Tory cuts.

? On the eve of his party's conference, Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat MP, told The Independent on Sunday that Mr Blair wanted a four-year fixed term for a parliament.

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