Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

As Ever, a Compromise

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

As Ever, a Compromise

Article excerpt

MR TONY BLAIR, characteristically, has gone for a compromise. If he had sincerely wanted to put off a general election until the foot-and-mouth outbreak was over, he would delay the poll until the autumn. But all the indicators suggest that, by October, the economy could be looking less healthy than it does today, and therefore that Labour's position could be less strong. If, on the other hand, he had stuck to his preferred date of May 3, Tory newspapers and some country-dwellers would have expressed outrage that he could trample on public sensibilities by campaigning through a national crisis. So the prime minister has settled for 7 June as the new local election date, and almost certainly the national one. The delay is intended to show concern for the farming community, without seriously dislocating his party's timetable. Foot-and-mouth experts believe there is a real chance that. by early June, it will be obvious that the crisis has peaked. If that is indeed so, Mr Blair will have won his gamble, and done the right thing by postponing the poll for a month. But his real moment of truth will come in May, when he is due to dissolve parliament, if foot-and-mouth is still raging. If that proved so, and today's postponement is supposed to mean anything, Mr Blair would postpone again, until the autumn. If not, then the decision to go for June would be shown to represent mere gesture politics.

The Cabinet's view would then be justified, that Mr Blair should have stuck to 3 May. We shall see.

Not so easy

A GROWING body of opinion now favours the adoption of vaccination, in the fight against foot and mouth. Some angry voices have been attacking the government for failing to adopt vaccination earlier, as an alternative to mass slaughter. The issue is being cited as further evidence of the inadequate response to the disease. Vaccination may well have a contribution to make in countering foot-and-mouth. But it would be wrong to suggest that it is a straightforward panacea, which the Ministry of Agriculture could easily have adopted from the outset. Even today, the reason vaccination has not begun is that a large part of the farming community remains highly sceptical about it. …

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