A FRESH bout of election speculation was dampened yesterday with the publication of a national opinion poll showing the ruling Labor Party would probably lose by a clear majority. The poll, published in The Australian, comes after a week in which Prime Minister Paul Keating told a congress of trade unionists he could smell 'blood in the water' and opposition leader John Howard's 'dream run' had ended. Mr Keating capitalised last week on a scare campaign being run by the Labor Party and unionists over the conservative opposition's industrial relations policies and what many saw as a political gaffe by Mr Howard over the sale of Sydney airport. The Government has run a series of newspaper advertisements and Mr Keating has given several speeches in the past few days on industrial relations, telling workers they would lose pay and conditions through the opposition's policy of encouraging people to opt out of union awards and take up individual workplace contracts. The Prime Minister has also attacked a pledge by Mr Howard to use the Senate to block the A$2 billion (HK$11.7 billion) sale of Sydney airport unless the Government reopens the controversial east-west runway - a move which would redirect air traffic away from several Sydney suburbs, including those in Mr Howard's constituency. Mr Keating said Mr Howard's threat was a 'great mistake' and, combined with his industrial relations policies, was 'a turning point in the dream ride he has had to date'. An election must be held before May and with the Government trailing the opposition by around eight percentage points for the past few months, received wisdom among commentators for the past two to three months had been that February or March were the most likely dates. That belief is likely to be reinforced by yesterday's poll which shows Labor behind in every state except Victoria. Mr Keating has given a clear signal that he will continue a series of recent personal attacks on Mr Howard, painting him as 'weak and sneaky' and vacillating on policy issues such as Sydney airport.