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Thursday, 14 September, 2000, 03:01 GMT 04:01 UK
Papers: Blair in trouble over fuel
Front pages on the fuel crisis
Thursday's newspapers detail how Britain is "grinding to a halt" in the fuel crisis with almost all petrol stations empty and food and other supplies beginning to be affected.

But one week after the refinery and depot blockades began, some of the papers are calling on the protesters to quit while they are ahead in terms of public sympathy.

"Enough is enough," says The Mirror, warning that lives are being endangered as, it says, the protests hit hospital supplies and emergency services.

The Mail urges you to end your blockade today, while you still hold the moral high ground

Daily Mail
"You've made your point. We agree with you. And we will help you fight Tony Blair every way on the outrageous cost of petrol in Britain... but people will start dying very soon and no fuel protest, however justified, is worth the loss of a single life," it continues.

Similar sentiments appear on the front page of the Daily Mail with the paper's message to the fuel campaigners:

"As a friend who believes in the justice of your case, the Mail urges you to end your blockade today, while you still hold the moral high ground."

'Blair at bay'

Most of the papers highlight the political ramifications of the crisis for the prime minister and compare Mr Blair's prediction on Tuesday that fuel supplies would be "on the way back to normal" in 24 hours with the state of affairs by Wednesday.

Mr Blair appeared to have misjudged the determination of protesters

The Independent
The Daily Express throws the PM's words back at him with the headline: "Is this the road to normal, Mr Blair" across a full page photograph of petrol tankers standing idle.

"Blair at bay as fuel crisis bites," is the headline in The Times above a picture of a row of empty supermarket bread shelves.

The Daily Telegraph runs a similar image along with a picture of a solitary vehicle on the M4 near London - usually heavily congested at rush hour.

"Britain stood on the verge of its gravest period of economic and social disruption since the Seventies last night as the fuel crisis worsened," the paper says, under the headline: "Britain comes to a standstill".

"Blair crisis deepens" screams The Sun, warning that shop shelves were being stripped bare, factories had started to lay off workers and pubs were running out of beer.

'Scaremongering' accusation

The Independent says Mr Blair has been "forced onto the back foot" and "appeared to have misjudged the determination of protesters".

The prime minister is "increasingly desperate," thinks The Guardian. "With Britain close to shut-down, Mr Blair sought to turn public opinion against the protest by putting the NHS on emergency footing for the first time in 11 years."

But more than one paper calls into question the validity of Mr Blair's warning that "lives are now at risk" and his accusation that protesters are using intimidation to stop tanker drivers delivering fuel.

"By crying wolf, Mr Blair has damaged his own cause," writes The Sun's political editor, Trevor Kavanagh.

The Mail quotes the National Blood Service accusing the government of "scaremongering".

The paper also says it had contacted several major hospitals and found that they were not cancelling operations as had been predicted by the Department of Health.

Pedal power

With their cars parked up for the time being, Britons have been finding other methods of getting about.

The Times and the Telegraph both report that sales of bicycles, pumps and inner tubes have jumped at cycle retailers Halfords as "Britain gets on its dusty old bike" - as the Times puts it.

To the Telegraph it is just one example of the UK's "bunker mentality". What with bread and milk being rationed at some supermarkets, "all that was missing was a backing tape by Dame Vera Lynn," it says.

At first glance, The Star appears not to be running the fuel story on its front page which is dominated by a photograph of model and former Big Breakfast presenter Kelly Brook in a camouflage bikini top and combat trousers.

On closer inspection however, Ms Brook is carrying two jerry cans - justifying the headline: "Petrol: It's a jungle out there".

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