Tory activists given carte blanche to play the race card

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The Tories have set a target of achieving a 4 per cent swing at the European elections, with instructions to campaigners to use "any issue" to galvanise the voters.

The Tories have set a target of achieving a 4 per cent swing at the European elections, with instructions to campaigners to use "any issue" to galvanise the voters.

A leaked internal document, seen by The Independent, shows that the Conservatives are aiming to retain their 36 seats in the European Parliament and do not expect to make gains on Tony Blair despite his difficulties.

The party believes that target can be achieved with 40 per cent of the national vote - compared to 36 per cent last time.

The Conservative Party leader Michael Howard will launch the party's campaign for the European Parliament tomorrow when he is expected to say the June election will be a launch pad for the general election campaign.

In the leaked document, which details the election campaign strategy, the Tories plan to highlight issues such as crime and tax - which have little bearing on Brussels policies - to persuade voters to vote for them.

But the instruction to "use any issue that will motivate Conservatives to vote" will raise fears that candidates will highlight asylum and immigration and even play the race card to encourage supporters to turn out.

The leaked presentation, entitled European Election 2004 Campaign Planning, was compiled by the Conservatives' new elections supremo David Canzini, who has just been appointed head of a new Central Office unit focusing on winning seats.

The document instructs activists to disregard Labour strongholds and to "work in the areas that deliver Conservative votes" including "Conservative wards both safe and marginal" and "opposition wards where we have a good vote." It says the party needs "60 per cent of the 2001 Conservative general election vote (minimum)" to achieve 40 per cent of the national vote.

The main thrust will focus on "getting out the vote" with potential Tory voters and "waverers" being bombarded with election leaflets throughout the campaign. Campaigners are warned not to underestimate "how hard we will have to work to get our vote out."

The document also says that the issue of the European referendum and the euro is a "Tory motivational" one that will encourage traditional supporters to vote in their favour. Tax and public services are the issues that the party believes will encourage people who are anti-Labour to vote Tory.

Draft leaflets carry the slogan "Let down by Labour? Put Britain first. Vote Conservative on June 10th". Local parties will be told to list "reasons to vote Conservative" on leaflets and use "action" shots of candidates.

At the last Euro election the Tories had 36 MEPs and Labour had 29 and the Liberal Democrats 10.

Yesterday a Conservative Party spokesman said the reason the party was not aiming to win more seats was because it was working in a "harder background", due to of a reduction in the number of seats this time. "Our aim is to retain the same number of MEPs. The campaign message is saying people felt let down in 1997. We need not only to get our people out to vote but persuade others to vote for us."

But Lord Oakeshott, a senior Liberal Democrat peer, said the target revealed in the document showed "paucity of ambition". "If the target is only to get 40 per cent of the vote now, what chance do they have at the general election?" he said.