BRITISH VOTERS CONCERNED OVER DOMESTIC POLICY - EXPERTS

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LONDON, May 5 (RIA Novosti correspondent Alexander Smotrov) - British voters are concerned above all over the situation at home and not foreign policy, say local experts and politicians on the eve of the general election.

Lord David Howell, a respected member of the Conservative Party and a member of the House of Lords and a former member in the cabinet of Margaret Thatcher, said the election campaign spotlighted domestic issues.

Healthcare and education are at their peak, but foreign policy and foreign affairs are mostly disregarded, he said. They are almost never mentioned on the election posters.

He told RIA that Conservatives lost the 1997 election because many of their supporters did not come to the polling stations. This year the Labor may lose some of their seats in the parliament because its electorate will remain at home.

Independent political analyst Matthew Durkin explains the success of the Labor Party by the favorable economic situation in Britain. This reinforced their confident election rating and forced the opposition parties to focus on confidence for the government, immigration control and cleanliness in hospitals, he told RIA.

Though foreign policy is not at the top of key issues, the feeling that Tony Blair is too close to George Bush and rejection of his decision-making methods before the [Iraqi] war seriously undermined the prestige of Tony Blair in his own party, the expert thinks.

When asked for a reason for the broad support for the Labor party, which had not been affected even by the recent Iraqi scandals, Durkin said he thinks that many Labor supporters who had fiercely opposed the war will vote for Labor all the same, because having Tories at the helm is even more unacceptable.

The parties neglect to raise the issue of the peace settlement in Northern Ireland during the election campaign because this may disrupt the fragile political balance in the peace process, the expert said.

He added in conclusion that the first issue to be raised after the probable victory of the Labor party would be most probably the timeframe for the replacement of party leaders and the departure of Tony Blair from Britain's political scene.

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