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Union's secret marginals campaign could outfox the Tories

TRADE union activists are stalking over 150,000 potential Labour voters in a secret war to fend of the Tories in the crucial Parliamentary seats that will decide the next election.
An exclusive News of the World ICM poll gives the Tories a nine point lead, but they are still six seats short of forming a majority after a GFeneral Election.
And a highly confidential operation being run by Britain’s biggest trade union, Unite, is far bigger than the Tories’ own £3m marginal seats campaign.

The union is using it’s own massive datatbase of members in a bid to persuade dithering former Labour voters they must get out and vote during the General Election.

The swing voters are being called by activists working for the Union.

They are then asked whether they are likely to vote Labour and what they think the most important issues at the next General Election will be.

That info is then used to send them personally tailored letters, and follow up calls and visits from government Ministers and prospective MPs.

The Tories are being forced to use data they have bought which indicates whether someone may be a potential Tory voter based on their lifestyle and spending habits.

But Labour are have secretly obtained far more accurate information based upon trade union membership forms.

A poll in the 60 most marginal seats in the country showed the Tories lead there has now dropped over the past few months, a clear sign that the Unite campaign is working.

The operation is being masterminded by Charlie Whelan, Unite;’s Political Director and a close friend of Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

A senior Unite source told the News of the World: “Potential voters are more likely to take a call from their trade union than they are from a political party.

“We can establish how they voted last time, how they are likely to vote and what they’re interested in.

“The Conservatives can only establish whether someone is likely to be a Tory. We know straight away of they are Labour.

“Then it’s a question of responding to their priorities.

“If they want to know about immigration, which is one of the biggest causes of concern, we can get personalised messages out to them straight away.

“Everyone is obsessed with Michael Ashcroft and the Tories’ marginals campaign, but the Unite system is proving to be pretty effective.”

Because the campaign is being run by Unite, rather than the Labour Party, it does not have to come from the Labour Party’s dwindling General Election campaign money.

AT the moment Labour have about £8m to spend at the election, half of the Tories’ own General Election Budget.

But Unite are likely to spend up to £5m on their own campaign before the General Election starts.

The trade unions have sent a staggering £88.5million to the Labour Party HQ in the last eight years.

This amounts to 63 per cent of all funding the Labour Party has received since official records of donations began in 2001.

They are also providing teams of drivers across the country to transport the elderly to polling stations, they are organizing postal votes, and sending 200 campaign officials to the marginal seats.

It is a logistical operation that is worth millions more to the Labour Party's election operation.

To reinforce the direct calls, letters and leaflets, the Labour Party is also planning poster campaigns that will highlight claims about cuts under a Tory Government.

For the past six months, Labour MPs have bombarded government departments such as the Home Office, Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department of Health.

They have been asking about the effect of budget cuts on their constituencies.

Those answers will be used on posters which will claim the Tories will cut hundreds of front line police jobs, thousands of nurses and teachers.

Labour strategists believe the campaign will be particularly effective in the North West, where a far higher proportion of potential labour voters are in public sector jobs.

Labour Mps have also been collating goodd news in their constituency.

At least 20 Labour MPs so far have tabled a battery of written Parliamentary questions.

The questions - largely the same wording apart from the name of the constituency and MP - have been tabled to various key government departments, mostly over the last few weeks, and politely ask for "statisfical information relating as directly as possible" to the particular Commons seat.

Hull North MP Kevin McNamara was earlier this week given a detailed Home Office answer on the impact of government policy in his constituency, including the fact that £275,000 had been awarded to help reduce burglary in Stoneferry and other areas.

Mr McNamara has a comfortable 19,705 majority, but some of the inquisitive Labour MPs are defending more marginal seats such as Bolton West's Ruth Kelly who had a lead of 7,072 over the Tories in 1997.

But processing each written Parliamentary question costs about £120 and with 20 Labour MPs tabling up to nine questions, the Tories have already estimated that the bill is at least £7,380.



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