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Blair savaged over Microsoft visit

'Unhealthy relationship' with business?

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The Labour Party was yesterday accused of having an unhealthy relationship with business after a visit to Microsoft UK.

Tony Blair spent about an hour at the software giant's Reading HQ, where his party chose to launch its business manifesto.

Tony and Cherie were given a ten-minute demonstration of Windows XP surrounded by gawping Microsoft staff. At one point the self-confessed technophobe PM reportedly quipped to his wife: "I hope you're following this".

Meanwhile, the opposition parties raged against what was seen as Labour endorsing a commercial product.

The Conservatives said the stunt showed Labour's "unhealthy relationship" with big business, while the Liberal Democrats cautioned against the party being associated with such a "dominant" company.

Microsoft was the first to admit that the free publicity resulting from Labour's request to stage the event on its premises was a coup for the company. It is due to launch its Office XP product at midnight tonight.

When asked about criticism of the event, one Microsoft representative said: "IT is a very much published and well-growing industry in the UK, and Microsoft contributes a lot." ®

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