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Labour party faces cash crunch

LONDON, Jan 5 – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown\’s party faces a funding crisis, threatening to hamper its strategy for re-election, a report said Tuesday, after campaigning kicked off in earnest.

David Blunkett, a former government minister and party strategist, said Labour was heading into the election at a greater financial disadvantage than any time since 1983, when it suffered a landslide defeat.

"We are trying to be careful so we don\’t end up bankrupt after the election if this all goes pearshaped," Blunkett told The Times newspaper.

Brown has not yet set a date for the election, although it must be held by June and experts say May 6 is the most likely date.

But both major parties are jostling for an early advantage, and campaigning revved up Monday with the troubled economy the main battleground.

Battered by a record recession and a scandal over lawmakers\’ expense claims, Britons face the prospect of five months of electioneering.

David Cameron, leader of the opposition Conservatives, released part of his party\’s draft manifesto Monday, while finance minister Alistair Darling tried to discredit Tory plans to cut public spending and firm up Britain\’s finances.

Cameron, 43, is tipped by opinion polls to oust Brown, who risks becoming one of Britain\’s shortest-serving premiers of recent times — he only took over from Tony Blair in June 2007.

Blunkett said Labour lacked the "big money and big charisma" that sustained it when Blair, who led Labour to a landslide victory in 1997, was prime minister. The party has been in power ever since.

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Labour has been forced to scrap a planned manifesto meeting of its National Policy Forum on cost grounds, and the Conservatives were preparing to outspend it by a factor of about three to one, the newspaper said.

Blunkett, chair of Labour\’s election development board, said Labour had a war chest of eight million pounds, (8.9 million euros, 12.8 million dollars), mainly from trade unions.

But this could rise to 10 million pounds if the centre-left party could secure more individual donations.

The centre-right Conservatives were expected to raise about 25 million pounds for the campaign, according to the newspaper.

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