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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Beef Scare May Sink Premier

LONDON -- The meltdown in consumer confidence in British beef because of fears of "mad cow" disease could wreck Prime Minister John Major's chances of an electoral revival, political commentators said on Tuesday.

They said the crisis, as well as putting Britain on a collision course with its European Union partners, was eroding public trust in ministers and would make it harder than ever for Major to promote a "feel good" factor.

"There is only one absolutely safe prediction to be made about the beef and brain disease affair: The government's attempt to reassure the nation will calm no one, and harm the Tory [Conservative] cause," Andrew Marr wrote in The Independent newspaper.

With consumer spending picking up, unemployment falling and tax cuts due to come through next month, Conservative strategists had been optimistic about clawing back the opposition Labour Party's commanding opinion-poll lead in time for the next general election, due by May 1997.

But after the mad cow scare, all bets are off, with several Conservative members of parliament admitting privately to extreme unease about the political fall-out.

Even staunchly pro-Conservative newspapers were withering in criticism over the affair.