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Saturday, 2 June, 2001, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Life on the Tory battlebus: Week 3
The Hagues
The Hagues continue to travel the country in the Tory battlebus
By campaign correspondent Tim Hirsch

This was the week when Mr Hague must have felt that the press team following him were rather like a flock of vultures circling around waiting for the kill.


The Tory leader has been compared to the character of Tigger in Winnie the Pooh, and generally speaking, he maintained his bouncy cheerfulness despite the adversity

Tim Hirsch
Every "doorstep" interview as he arrived at a new campaign location focused on opinion polls forecasting meltdown for the Tories on 7 June, or reports of splits within the party over the strategy of portraying the election as a referendum on the Euro.

The Tory leader has been compared to the character of Tigger in Winnie the Pooh, and generally speaking, he maintained his bouncy cheerfulness despite the adversity.

This did seem to slip a bit on Wednesday as he arrived for a poster launch in the pouring rain near Glasgow, and seemed to be struggling to keep his spirits up - coverage in the next day's newspapers described him as looking pale, drawn and tired.

But the following day as the campaign jet set off for the West Country Mr Hague made a point of walking back to chat with journalists to show he was still relaxed and confident. One cheeky hack asked whether he was sleeping all right and what he was dreaming about.

Yes he was sleeping fine, said Mr Hague, and couldn't remember his dreams but they certainly were not about politics.

Ffion's influence

As for Ffion Hague, her influence has proven to be more important than simply being a silent adornment on his arm during the campaign.

She turned out to be critical in delivering one of the Mr Hague's victories over Tony Blair this week - that quiz from young interviewers from the BBC "Newsround" programme testing the party leaders' knowledge of youth culture.


The Tories have centred their campaign on saving the pound
When asked to name the band formed from the winners of the "Popstars" programme, the Tory leader correctly replied Hear'Say, and revealed that Ffion was a great fan of the show because of band-member Noel's connection with her home town of Cardiff.

One of the more bizarre moments of the week came in Weston-super-Mare, when Mr Hague visited a health centre to chat to GPs about problems in the health service.

Unsuspecting patients arrived for their appointments and found the entrance to the surgery lined with dozens of cameras, police and Tory supporters with "Keep the Pound" balloons.

Not what you expect when to pop round to the doctor to have your bunions looked at.

It was biggest thing that had happened in the town since the strike of donkey drivers on the beach was resolved on Tuesday.

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