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Last Updated: Friday, 6 May 2005, 06:49 GMT 07:49 UK
Election replay 1997
Photo of Tony Blair on the campaign trail 97
Would Tony Blair become the youngest UK PM since 1812?
As Tony Blair sets about leading his third Labour Government BBC Parliament broadcasts the landmark election that swept him to power in 1997.

When Conservative Prime Minister John Major went to the Queen to dissolve Parliament on 18 March of that year he began one of the longest campaigns in history.

And it was a period fraught with difficulties, even by electoral standards.

The preceding Parliament had been dominated by feuding over Europe, as sterling crashed out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism within months of John Major's victory at the 1992 election.

Mr Major had also endured a leadership challenge - from John Redwood - in 1995 and there had been 12 resignations from office - including Jonathan Aitken and Neil Hamilton - as the Conservatives weathered a series of sleaze allegations.

Tony Blair had effectively relaunched the Labour Party after he became leader in May 1994, following the death of Neil Kinnock's successor John Smith.

New Labour

After 18-years in opposition Labour was hungry for power and represented a formidable force, under the tight party discipline of campaign manager Peter Mandelson and distancing themselves from traditional Labour thinking on nationalisation and trade union influence.

The campaign was widely criticised for its negativity, especially by Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown.

And the Conservatives suffered roundly from the 'cash for Parliamentary questions' row, as Mr Major had failed to publish the inquiry into it before the election, as he had promised.

BBC War Correspondent Martin Bell confronted one of the Conservative MPs at the centre of the allegations - Neil Hamilton - by standing against him as an independent in Tatton, Cheshire.

This was also the election when the Sun newspaper, with its high circulation, switched its allegiance to Labour.

Watch Election 97 unfold with David Dimbleby at the helm, with analysis from Robin Oakley, Anthony King and Peter Kellner, interviews from Jeremy Paxman and the swingometer of Peter Snow.

This fascinating piece of political history will be broadcast on BBC Parliament from 0900 BST until 2310 BST on Friday 13 May.


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