Page last updated at 14:18 GMT, Monday, 19 May 2008 15:18 UK

Labour's 'toff' campaign defended

Tamsin Dunwoody insists she is 'just a single umemployed mother fighting hard for a job'

Tamsin Dunwoody, Labour's candidate in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, has defended her campaign's portrayal of her Conservative rival as a "toff".

She said activists dressed in top hats had helped highlight Edward Timpson's wealth and were "good visual imagery".

Mr Timpson said he had not been "hurt" by "old class-war tactics" with polls suggesting the Tories could make their first by-election gain since 1982.

And a Labour vice-chairman told the BBC the campaign had been "a little crude".

There are 10 candidates for the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, which takes place on Thursday.

It follows the death of long-serving MP Gwyneth Dunwoody - Ms Dunwoody's mother - who passed away last month.

'Difference'

The Labour campaign has portrayed Mr Timpson, who is a lawyer, as a "toff".

Ms Dunwoody's website says: "Do you want a Tory con man or a Dunwoody?"

She told the BBC her campaign had used "good visual imagery of the difference between my opponent and myself".

Maybe it's a little crude but it's trying to get across a legitimate political message
Stephen Ladyman
Labour MP

"I don't have a 53m pound fortune supporting me. I don't have a 1.5m mansion. I am just a single, unemployed mother of five fighting hard for a job," she said.

Mr Timpson said: "I've not been hurt at all. In fact, it's made me stronger and even more determined to put forward our positive message, which is really what people are interested in.

"They're not interested in old class-war tactics. What they're interested in are what are the local issues here, about the rising cost of living, the rise in crime and the cuts in local services.

"That's what matters to people and that's why we have campaigned very heavily on those issues."

I wouldn't be surprised if it continues at the general election, because there are sufficient Neanderthals at the top of the Labour Party that will insist on this strategy
Eric Pickles
Conservative MP

Labour vice-chairman Stephen Ladyman told BBC Radio 4's The World at One he thought his party could have been a "bit more witty" in getting its message across.

On the "toff" slogan, he said: "Maybe it's a little crude but it's trying to get across a legitimate political message that the Conservative candidate hasn't done anything in the area.

"He's a rich man and he won't understand the problems that people face day-to-day."

'80 siblings'

But Conservative MP Eric Pickles, who is running his party's campaign in Crewe, said the "class-war" tactics had "back-fired".

"When you see your opponents making a dreadful mistake and under-estimating the intelligence of the electorate, you should feel some joy," he said.

"My candidate's child's name is down for the local state school, his family belongs to a tradition of fostering and he has had 80 siblings, all from challenging backgrounds, so he is very much in touch with reality.

"Labour seems to think if they just press a couple of buttons, working class people are going to jump around on a basis of class envy.

"I think we have moved on. I think Britain is a much more civilised place than that."

'Mean and nasty'

Mr Pickles said he would not be surprised if these type of tactics continue into the next general election "because there are sufficient Neanderthals at the top of the Labour Party that will insist on this strategy.

"It's mean and it's nasty and it sums up Gordon Brown."

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said on Sunday that he believes their candidate - Elizabeth Shenton - could win the by-election, the result of which is due in the early hours of Friday morning.

He said the Labour vote was collapsing and that people were not turning to the Conservatives after asking questions about the "substance" behind their "rhetoric".


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