Prime Minister Tony Blair's government has been anxious to dispel fears that it is holding back on the announcement of a large-scale livestock cull until after the general election this Thursday. Conservative party leader William Hague had made the suggestion during a speech in Cheltenham that the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) would be reluctant to discuss details of an intensified and unpopular foot and mouth cull until after the votes were cast. He demanded that the department "come clean" about its future plans for dealing with the highly contagious virus.