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Is Blair preparing to cut and run with early election?

Conservatives have accused Tony Blair of turning his back on the British electorate, after Labour announced that the Prime Minister will adopt a lower profile during the next general election campaign.

After a special strategy session of the Labour Cabinet, election co-ordinator Alan Milburn announced that Mr Blair will not travel the country in a campaign "battlebus", and in another break with the past, the governing party will abandon the usual daily new conferences in London.

Instead, there will be more Labour phone-ins, but less talking with national media journalists and commentators... .a campaign based "more about people, less about issues," he said.

But with speculation focusing on the need for early tax rises to counter a slump in Government income and a rise in Whitehall borrowing, Conservative Co-Chairman Dr Liam Fox warned of a Government in panic, preparing to cut and run in an early election next year.

He said: "The economy looks more and more gloomy, and now we hear that Tony Blair is planning an election campaign in which he does not speak to journalists or the people. This sounds increasingly like a Government in panic that is preparing to cut and run."

Referring to Labour's election campaign strategy, Dr Fox added: "This is further proof that Tony Blair is terrified of facing proper scrutiny. At a time when the British people are looking for more accountability and openness, this Government turns its back on them, abandoning plans to tour the country and too scared to face journalists in daily press conferences. It does all rather beg the question: What have they got to hide? "

Fox, Liam

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