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May 17

Peter Mandelson leaves the van
Well, we survived Hartlepool. That's as much as can be said for our visit to Mr Mandelson's constituency - during which the former Northern Ireland Secretary agreed to be interviewed in the Newsnight Dormobile, and then abruptly terminated the interview when he was asked if Gordon Brown was having a perfect campaign.

It was the camper van's first taste of political action. We're guessing when we say that - but surely, after a quarter of a century on the road, this must have been the first time its side door was slammed by a former cabinet minister on the way out.

Not that this was anything like a perfect day in the life of our temperamental friend: on the way into the town, almost within view of the ship whose mast towers over the historic quayside, the van ran out of fuel.

So a mention for the man from the AA relay service who not only came out to see us but commiserated as we poured unleaded fuel into tanks meant only for four star. The AA man was simultaneously amused and concerned: 'You needed to see the Tory candidate ten minutes ago?' He escorted us into Hartlepool; we got four star. From there the day went smoothly, until Mr Mandelson threw that wobbly.

A word about the legislation that governs any interviews we do with candidates. I mention this neutrally, only to explain the constrictions we work within. If we interview Mandelson, we have to interview his main local opponents: the Tory and the LibDem. If Mr Mandelson speaks for a minute, his opponents get equal footing. It's called the Representation of the People Act and we don't have any leeway. It means if we want to show you a longish interview with Mr M, we show you longish Tory and longish LibDem too. That's life.

Finally - in closing - we've had more problems with the VW engine today which culminated in Isobel, the producer, and I having to stop the van because the cabin was flooded with smoke. It turned out a piston had gone. Peter Clarke, a mechanic we found in Hull, is helping out. We want to thank him, not just for the complicated work, but for the simple explanation: if we'd carried on driving, the engine would have melted.

 Click here to watch Jeremy's report from May 17.


Jeremy's diary entries:

May 8 - John o'Groats

May 10 - Glasgow

May 13 - Newcastle

May 16 - Hartlepool

May 17 - Hartlepool

May 21 - Birmingham

May 25 - Bristol

Jeremy's letter to Bristol Council

May 29 - Dorset

June 5 - Cornwall

June 6 - Land's End

The van's fate


Click here to download the Newsnight Van Screensaver

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