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Last Updated: Friday, 22 April, 2005, 07:42 GMT 08:42 UK
Who is writing the leaders' blogs?
By Brian Wheeler
BBC News political reporter

There has been much lofty talk about this being the first weblog election, after the medium made such an impact on the US campaign earlier this year.

Sandra Howard
Mrs Howard's diary is attracting attention

Typically, it took something as trivial as the price of a hairdo for the British media to really sit up and take notice.

Headlines on Thursday's papers were made by comments in Sandra Howard's campaign diary about a "certain other leader's wife" employing the "priciest hairdresser in town".

But the comments will not have caused too many red faces at Conservative HQ.

Apart from anything else the furore will have drawn attention to Mrs Howard's blog, which is probably the most readable of any produced by the main parties.

It is a chatty and surprisingly candid view of life inside the media bubble ("Three changes of clothes and a chewed thumbnail later I set off for ITV's London studios in an LK Bennett cardi with pearl buttons - some meanie is sure to bleat I was wearing Tory pearls").

It even includes the odd joke ("Michael calls the Torbay Lib Dems crazy policy of trying to close all the loos, a knee-jerk reaction; I think 'crossed-leg' might have been a better anatomical analogy").

And at least it is all Mrs Howard's own work.

'Exclusive clips'

Other high profile figures on the campaign trail have turned to shadowy third parties to record their thoughts and impressions of Election 2005.

John Prescott
Mr Prescott is touring the country by bus
John Prescott - who cheerfully admits his ignorance of web matters - has, not surprisingly, farmed his Prescott Express web diary out to a party worker, who dutifully logs his every movement ("John was able to strongly contrast this with Tory thinking during the next visit when he crossed the border into Wales").

The blog is not signed by any author but the man responsible - identified only as "Neil" - can be briefly glimpsed in an "exclusive" video clip of Mr Prescott giving a guided tour of his battle bus.

This film is a bit of gem in itself.

Mr Prescott clearly enjoys a good bus trip - and although he does not actually suggest having a whip round for the driver - he does complain that they haven't stopped for fish and chips yet, muttering darkly about being fed "grass and salads".

Plaintive entry

Charles Kennedy's battle bus blog is also written by party workers, who identify themselves - "Rob - The Internet Whizz" and "James - Battle Bus blogger".

"We're hopeful that Charles will be able to make time in his schedule to write the occasional blog entry for us," says one plaintive entry, but none has been forthcoming, apart from a brief message thanking people for all the teddies and cards he has received since the birth of his son.

The Lib Dem blog does, at least, allow users to add their own comments, sparking a bit of debate on Lib Dem environment policy.

There is no comment section on Tony Blair's blog, but the prime minister does answer questions sent in by users of Labour's main web site.

Kylie Minogue

Mr Blair's blog is written in the first person, but - apart from an anecdote about being upstaged by Kylie Minogue ("My press team were all singing "I'm spinning around. Only they weren't.") there are few of the personal touches that make Sandra Howard's diary so readable.

Charles Kennedy
Mr Kennedy is too busy to blog

Some unkind souls in Westminster have even suggested it is not the work of the prime minister at all, but David Bradshaw, a former Daily Mirror journalist who has ghost-written for the prime minister in the past.

Labour campaign HQ has not so far confirmed or denied this.

Whatever the case, the video clips from the campaign trail, which show a harassed-looking Mr Blair dashing between engagements, suggest the self-confessed technophobe prime minister might be too busy to blog.





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