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LOCAL ELECTIONS COULD PROVE CRUCIAL TO HAGUE

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The Conservative leader William Hague was given a warning yesterday that his attempts to reposition the party have ...
The Conservative leader William Hague was given a warning yesterday that his attempts to reposition the party have left him vulnerable should poor local election results spark a challenge to his leadership.

The Times (p2) reports that Labour aims to capitalise on the low Tory showing in the polls and is calculating which seats it could take from them in a general election.

The party has drawn up a list of 25 where Tory MPs have a majority of fewer than 2,000. Ministers canvassing for the local elections have made a point of visiting them.

John Prescott, the environment secretary, was in Weymouth yesterday - part of Dorset South, where the Conservative majority is 77.

Alan Howarth, culture minister, was in Hexham - Tory majority 222, and Alistair Darling, social security secretary, has canvassed in Mid Norfolk, which the Tories hold by 1,336 votes.

Labour Party chiefs will pore over the council election results in those areas.

The Tories are certain to make gains in the local elections, the paper says. But a failure to imporve by more than 1,000 seats from the party's low watermark four years ago would cause concern.

One Tory MP has suggested that the critical point would come for William Hague if the elections showed the Tories beached on their present 27% showing.

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