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ELECTION BUILD-UP BRINGS OUT OLD DIRTY TRICKS CHARGES

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Campaigning for next month's local elections started in earnest this week with allegations of dirty tricks. ...
Campaigning for next month's local elections started in earnest this week with allegations of dirty tricks.

Local government minister Hilary Armstrong has accused the Tories of selective leaking of bleak polling results in their two London flagship councils in a bid to then portray holding them as a major success. In a letter to Tory leader William Hague, Ms Armstrong claims the opposition is repeating a Tory trick from 1990 by leaking polling details from Wandsworth and Westminster. In 1990, party chairman Ken Baker diverted attention from disastrous results elsewhere by highlighting Tory successes here.

Ms Armstrong's letter followed media reports suggesting the Tories were trailing Labour by 17 points in Wandsworth and facing a desperate battle in Westminster.

Michael Thrasher, co-director of the Local Government Chronicle Elections Centre at the University of Plymouth, said the Conservative share of the vote nationally would have to fall to 20% from 31% for Labour to capture Wandsworth and to well below that for Westminster to be lost.

A Conservative Party spokeswoman said: 'Hilary Armstrong would be better served clearing up the stinking mess of Labour authorities across the country.'

The Conservatives claim to have candidates standing next month for slightly more seats than in the 1994 elections - 93.3% compared to 91.4%. But in London their numbers are down.

Labour says it is contesting 97.2% of seats and the Liberal Democrats around 80%.

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