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Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK
The Campaign Today with Nick Robinson
A week tomorrow... With only seven full days of campaigning left, Nick Robinson continues to give you his election insight from ground level.
Click here for latest update
A further unexpected twist this morning on the role of women in this campaign. Condemned for not allowing them to speak enough, Labour has relented by using women to attack William Hague - first Clare Short yesterday, then Margaret Beckett today.
There's an iron rule of political strategy that you keep your leader above the fray but getting "the ladies" to punch below the belt is a fascinating 21st Century evolution of that idea.
Both Labour and the Lib Dems hope that the Tory discipline over Europe and other matters, that's shown so far, will crack in the next few days and that the party's divisions will once again be put on public display.
Charles Kennedy's come up with a clever way of teasing the Tories - he's promising to be an effective opposition to Labour. In one sense it's a weird claim given that his attack of choice is always on the Tories and given the fact that his party operates with Labour in Scotland and Wales.
But Kennedy calculates that the opposition the country wants to see to Labour is one calling for more spending, less of a role for business in health and education and a less bossy government.
IT'S POLLING DAY! THIS IS FIRST DAY PEOPLE CAN CAST A VOTE. THANKS TO CHANGE IN RULES AROUND 2M PEOPLE CAN VOTE TODAY BY POST
Signs that the Tory fruit (see above for my contorted metaphor!) is ripening, if not quite ready to fall. The list of Tories willing to come out and criticise their campaign is growing - former Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell today joined Leon Brittan, Geoffrey Howe and Ian Taylor.
He's stayed in the safety of print rather than yet straying onto the more impactful media of TV & radio. Bigger and jucier than them all, of course is Ken Clarke, who's not yet ready to be picked.
And still "that woman" is talked about more than most of today's politicians. Both New Labour and the Tories are schizophrenic about Thatcher, one minute lavishing praise on her, the next trying to distance themselves.
Like her or loathe her she's still the benchmark for political success and strength of leadership. Perhaps too for eschewing the verbal formulas wielded so often by today's politicians. Although having made life awkward for William Hague by saying she'd never join the single currency, she moved to help him out this morning by saying she'd always keep the pound!
So it's polling day from now until next Thursday, at least for everyone who has opted to vote by post. Labour believe that about two million people will vote by post. which equates to about 3,000 per constituency.
This changes the nature of the campaign with every night now being the last chance to persuade at least some key voters. Labour have put in a special effort to promote postal voting because it allows them to spread their GOTV (get out the vote) effort across a longer period.
For those who think such things don't matter, academic research has shown that local organisation did make a difference in as many as 50 seats in the 1997 election.
In answer to Paul Harrod's question (above), it's an early start for the party leaders Paul, but a much earlier finish than they used to do. (Click to listen)
Labour faces a real dilemma - the polls show the Tories at best "flatlining", at worst actually losing support. Now Labour should want to dance on their graves and make things worse for them.
The trouble is the better the polls look for Labour the harder it is to persuade their supporters to vote. And they are genuinely concerned about that, hence all those posters including that of Hague in a Thatcher hairdo, which are designed to get all their supporters laughing and get them out to vote.
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