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Programme highlights Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Blair visits Queen to ask for election
Tony Blair visited the Queen this lunchtime
The Prime Minister on his way to Buckingham Palace

Just before 1 o'clock, Tony Blair left Downing Street for the short journey to Buckingham Palace where he asked the Queen for the dissolution of Parliament: later this afternoon he's expected to travel to a school in South London and announce the date of the 2001 General Election as June 7th.

Reactions

The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are preparing to launch their campaigns this afternoon.

Despite a poor showing in the polls, the Tory leader William Hague said this morning his party is "ready to win".

And the Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy declared his party is "raring to go". He's already been out and about, visiting a London school, before officially starting his campaign this afternoon.

For the small army of party campaigners across the land, today is simply a stage - albeit an important stage - in the long march to polling day.

True activists start fighting the next election campaign as soon as the last one finishes, and in any case there's no room for apathy in local party offices. In many cases they're fighting for their own livelihoods - as well as those of their prospective MPs.

Most will try to ignore the bookies verdict - that Labour are a dead cert - either to avoid complacency or despair.

The first debate

Politicians are promising a campaign focused on the real issues: health, education, tax, Europe no doubt.

And a campaign fought with humility and aimed at overcoming apathy.

The World at One discussed the issues with the Trade and Industry Secretary - Stephen Byers: for the Conservatives, Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Cabinet Officer Minister, and Matthew Taylor, Economics Spokesman for the Liberal Democrats.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
Click here to hear Nick Clarke describe the morning's atmosphere
Audio
Click here to listen to the main parties discuss the impending election: Stephen Byers, Andrew Lansley and Matthew Taylor
Links to more Programme highlights stories are at the foot of the page.


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