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Blair names poll date -

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Blair names poll date

Reporter: Philip Williams

PHILIP WILLIAMS: Down the mall and into history. Tony Blair's visit to Buckingham Palace to request
an election was Britain's worst kept political secret.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The one thing that motivates me, personally, every day of my
political life, is a belief that we should create a country where regardless of someone's class or
background or race or colour or religion, they get the chance to make the most of themselves.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: It all came a day later than planned. Instead of tea and biscuits with the Queen
yesterday, the Prime Minister and wife Cherie were at Westminster Cathedral for a special service
to remember the Pope. Sharing that moment was Prince Charles and his princess-to-be, Camilla. Their
wedding day had to be shifted by 24 hours to avoid a clash with the Pope's funeral. Last time the
election was delayed by foot and mouth disease. Foot in mouth - an affliction the mercurial Prime
Minister is largely immune from. But he certainly has his image problems this time around.

GEORGE JONES, POLITICAL EDITOR DAILY TELEGRAPH: He's offended a lot of people. The Iraq war was
very unpopular. Many people see him as a slightly slippery sort of character. So you know, there's
a feeling of disgruntlement, resentment, to a certain extent about him, but I don't think there's
any great desire to put the Conservatives in.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: The Conservative leader, Michael Howard, will be heartened by new polls which put
him just a couple of points behind Labour.

MICHAEL HOWARD, CONSERVATIVE LEADER: They can either reward Mr Blair for eight years of broken
promises and vote for another five years of talk or they can vote Conservative, to support a party
that's taken a stand.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: But they have one major problem - Tony Blair is blessed with a booming economy.

GEORGE JONES: The British economy is growing. And we are growing better, we have lower unemployment
than our neighbours across the channel, like France or Germany.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: Besides, many would argue, why elect a Conservative government when there's
already one being run by Mr Blair? The Prime Minister did lose a lot of support over Iraq. A
million people rallied against Britain's involvement. The dodgy dossier, the disappearing weapons
of mass destruction and the suicide of weapons inspector David Kelly did nothing to improve Tony
Blair's image.

VOX POP 1: His actions in Iraq have been a bit dodgy, to say the least.

VOX POP 2: He's a bit slimey and a bit smarmy. I'm sure there are loads of people who will say the
exact opposite, but he's not my cup of tea.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: Yet for all the unease, even open hostility there seems little appetite for a
change of government. It appears the best the conservatives can hope for is to take a big bite out
of Tony Blair's 161-seat majority. If election victory really is beyond them, then the
Conservatives would probably be happy with a swing of 40 or 50 seats and that would give Tony Blair
more exposure to his most fierce critics - the rebels within his own Labour Party. Philip Williams,
Lateline.