Blunkett says a 'Baghdad bounce' will boost Labour

Paul Waugh,Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 30 April 2003 00:00 BST

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, became the first cabinet minister to suggest that Labour could benefit from a "Baghdad bounce" in tomorrow's local elections.

Hours before Tony Blair made a final televised appeal to voters yesterday, Mr Blunkett said that support for the Prime Minister on Iraq was "very strong" among the party's core working-class vote.

Labour chiefs are worried whether such support will translate into votes and Mr Blair used his election broadcast to appeal for a high turn-out.

Several polls have shown that the Prime Minister's personal ratings have soared in recent weeks, but a poll published today shows that 28 per cent of the public feel that the war in Iraq had decreased their support for Labour. In the survey by Nunwood Consulting, only 8 per cent said it increased their likelihood of voting Labour, with 55 per cent unchanged.

Mr Blunkett dismissed opposition to the war as a middle-class phenomenon. "It's a class issue. In working-class communities, the support for the stand that Tony Blair took and the leadership he showed is very strong," he said on a campaign visit to Dartford.

Mr Blair used his broadcast to make asylum one of his four priorities, with health, education and crime.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative leader, stepped up his own pitch for the working-class vote yesterday by promising that the next Tory government would give charities a key role in improving the inner cities.

In his speech at Toynbee Hall, a charity in the East End of London, Mr Duncan Smith said society was being "hollowed out from within" by the failure of the state to tackle the "five giants" of rising crime, failing schools, substandard health care, child poverty and insecurity in old age.

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