Roll Over, Britannia

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LONDON: Britain's ruling Conservative Party has staked its political future on a boat, but, so far, the government appears to be going down with the ship. And the party's chances for returning to power after upcoming parliamentary elections don't ride on just any Thames tug, either. Conservatives were banking on the notion that the 412-foot royal yacht Britannia, currently on one last world cruise to the Middle East, India and Hong Kong, stirs up powerful memories of Britain's heyday on the world stage when they approved a 60 million ($99 million) replacement for the aging ship. In their excitement at relaying the information to the Queen, however, they overlooked one minor detail: consulting with the opposition Labour Party, who have declared the project dead in the water if they come to power. If the Queen wants a new yacht, says Labour, she should look to private businesses, not the taxpayers, to pick up the tab. Plagued by cuts in state-funded education and health care, 72 percent of voters in a Guardian/ITM poll Tuesday turned thumbs down on the Conservative largesse.