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Tories slam Blair 'broken pledges'

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Blair faces tough challenge in bid to be the first Labor Party leader to win a third full term. CNN's Robin Oakley reports (April 11)
UK election
Michael Howard
Tony Blair
Great Britain

LONDON, England -- British opposition leader Michael Howard has attacked Prime Minister Tony Blair's "broken promises," saying: "I'm going into battle for Britain."

The Conservative Party on Monday became the first major political party to launch its May 5 manifesto, promising £4 billion ($7.5 billion) of tax cuts and a series of what it said was carefully costed spending commitments.

He said a vote for the ruling Labour party and Blair, who was elected as prime minister in 1997 and again in 2001, would be a reward for eight years of "broken promises" and urged Britons not to vote for "five more years of failure."

Howard said: "You don't have to settle for that. Use your vote to tell Mr. Blair that it's just not good enough.

"Use your vote to take a stand. It's time for change. It's time for action."

Meanwhile Monday, Blair had sought to launch a pre-emptive strike against Howard, telling reporters his rival's policies would produce "an economic mess."

Howard, speaking in London, said: "This is our manifesto. It doesn't have a picture of me on the cover -- it doesn't have anyone's picture on the cover.

"On the cover are the simple longings of the British people -- people who feel forgotten and ignored."

On Thursday, at the final prime minister's question time of the 2001-2005 parliament, Howard teased Labour MPs by asking how many of them would be using photographs of Blair on their election addresses.

CNN's European Political Editor Robin Oakley noted that "blushing prettily, a mere half dozen Labour MPs put up their hands."

Oakley said whereas at the previous two general elections, would-be MPs were keen to be seen with him, "to have the merest whiff of Blair magic dust sprinkled on their local efforts."

Now, amid the aftermath of the unpopular Iraq war, Labour MPs are asking whether Blair "once the titan who tugged his party along behind him, (is) now a liability to Labour?"

Security risk

Howard said his party's manifesto was slim because he wanted people to actually read it, saying: "It is a very readable document."

Asked about the link between immigration and security, Howard outlined a specific example which he claimed demonstrated the potential security risk of a lax immigration system.

He said: "It has come to light in the last couple of weeks that immigration officers at some of our airports have been given instructions that if someone presents themselves with suspect papers, with papers that the immigration officer believes to have been forged or tampered with in some way, what they should do -- instead of ordering such a person to be detained immediately as used to happen -- they have now been told to give them leave to enter the country for 48 hours in the hope that they will come back and report at the end of those 48 hours.

"These are people with suspect documents, these are people in relation to who there is a suspicion they are tricking their way into the country, possibly for nefarious purposes."

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