Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Any Other Business

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Any Other Business

Article excerpt

Byline: By Peter Young

Oh how they try, but there must be despair in Conservative ranks at the failure to achieve the long-awaited breakthrough in the polls.

Michael Howard's speech to the party faithful in Bournemouth was hailed as statesmanlike as he spelled out how they can still win the coming General Election despite the dismal ratings.

The Tories firmly believe their policies on taxation, illegal immigration, Europe and crime, put them on the same wavelength as ordinary people across the country and that Labour's ruling metropolitan elite is out of touch.

Yet Tony Blair, and perhaps increasingly Gordon Brown, have succeeded in keeping Labour ahead in the polls despite the spectre of Iraq.

There's still a long way to go to the General Election and according to North East Euro MP Martin Callanan the mood among delegates in Bournemouth was optimistic. "Of course, we would like to be better positioned in the polls but there's still all to play for," he said.

There are those who believe, however, that party chairman Liam Fox may live to regret his opening remarks when he said: "Welcome to Bournemouth, to this our last conference in opposition."

THE inquest is under into what went so badly wrong for the Tories at the Hartlepool by-election, won by Labour.

The party's Newcastle-based candidate Jeremy Middleton was relegated to a humiliating fourth place behind the UK Independence Party.

One leading Tory blamed the leadership for dragging its feet over the choice of candidate. "It was a b...s up from the start," he said. "We didn't get our act together until the campaign was six weeks old. Jeremy did us a favour by accepting and performed very well but he was always going to struggle."

So, why were they waiting? There's speculation they were hoping Robocop, Ray Mallon, the tough former senior police officer, now Mayor of Middlesbrough, would take on the job.

If true, it was a forlorn hope. Mr Mallon leans towards Labour and he soon endorsed the party's candidate, Iain Wright.

IT sounds suspiciously like a script from TV's Yes, Minister. Newcastle City Council is considering appointing a new director of children's services - a legal obligation - at a salary of around pounds 120,000 including bonuses. …

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