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The BBC's Political Editor Andrew Marr
"The new Blair mood is noticeably grittier"
 real 56k

Conservative Party Chairman, Michael Ancram
"Labour has broken nearly all the promises they made"
 real 28k

Social Security Secretary, Alistair Darling
"We believe you need a sustained level of investment"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 9 January, 2001, 15:25 GMT
Election battle lines drawn
Tony Blair
Tony Blair pledged prosperity for everyone
Labour and the Conservatives have traded blows over tax and the state of public services in Britain.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Tory leader William Hague outlined their positions on Tuesday in speeches which appeared to mark the first shots of a pre-election campaign.

Mr Hague launched a 1.5m advertising campaign accusing Labour of raising tax by stealth while failing to deliver any improvements in public services.

Mr Blair, unveiling Labour's latest slogan "by choice not chance", said the government was committed to investing in public services.

The prime minister said the country did not need to return to the days of under-investment or privatisation of key services.

Tony Blair
Blair: Hit by a tomato in Bristol
"For 20 years or more Britain has suffered from chronic under-investment in public services, in schools, in hospitals, in police and in transport," he said.

"The only option is to invest in the future. To go back to cutting investment and privatising key services would not be right. That has been the cause of many of the problems."

Prosperity for all

Mr Blair, who was hit with fruit by protesters before the meeting, said investment would bring "prosperity for everyone".

It cannot happen by chance but by the choice we as a country make

Tony Blair
"Investment in public services has an economic as well as a social purpose."

But he added: "It cannot happen by chance but by the choice we as a country make."

Mr Blair said the improvements would be only delivered if Labour is re-elected.

"It's not put right in one term of office but the direction is there, the goals are there, the challenges have been identified and the measures and solutions to get them right are there."

Stealth taxes

For his part, William Hague said the Tories would change the way public services are provided to deliver 8bn of tax cuts to those who he said had been hit hardest under Labour.

He said typical working families were paying an extra 670 in tax each year and he suggested that many were wondering where Labour was spending the extra tax.

He pretends the NHS is not in perpetual crisis. He pretends that there are enough teachers and he pretends that there are enough police

William Hague
"The people of Britain do not want more stealth taxes. They know that they have paid all their taxes. Now they want to know where the money has gone."

The Tory campaign, featured on 1,000 billboards across the country, includes attacks on what the party called the government's "tax and waste" spending policies.

A typical slogan is: "You've paid the tax, so where are the police?"

Mr Hague accused Mr Blair of being "the great pretender".

"He pretends the NHS is not in perpetual crisis. He pretends that there are enough teachers and he pretends that there are enough police."

But he added: "People aren't fooled any more by Tony Blair, the great pretender.

"They have paid the tax and they want to know where all the money has gone.

"Let Tony Blair be in no doubt. We will put Labour's high taxes and failure to deliver at the centre of our election campaign."

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy criticised the Tory plans for tax cuts.

"People know you can't get something for nothing.

"The Conservatives are trying to imply that they can reduce public spending and cut taxes and increase the vital public services people care about. Pull the other one."

  • A survey of 1,000 people suggests the Conservatives will be at a disadvantage in an election because voters see them as too right wing.

    The survey, for Channel 4, found that more than half of voters regarded the Tories as right wing whereas just one in 10 of those questioned classed themselves as right wing.

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    Protesters pelt Blair
    09 Jan 01 | UK Politics
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    09 Jan 01 | Education
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    02 Jan 01 | UK Politics
    All eyes on the election
    13 Dec 00 | UK Politics
    Tories are 'underdogs' - Hague
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