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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
The Campaign Today with Nick Robinson

Well it's T minus three days - and counting. The temperature might be rising, but Nick is keeping his cool head.

Last updated at 6.25pm
Click here for latest update

Subject: Landslide Blues?
Sent: 10.15am

Bizarre I know, but Labour have got the landslide blues.

Only last Friday I was wondering when the Tories might play the "wipe the smile off Blair's face" card (test run in Australia). Now they have and Tony Blair doesn't like it.

At this morning's news conference he simply would not address the question of whether a landslide would be a good or bad idea.

When pushed again and again he snapped "Look" (or did I imagine that word he uses so often) "Can I put it to you bluntly that the election hasn't happened yet?"

Before the election, a key Labour strategist told me that their campaign would be a "referendum on the Tories" - hence all the talk about 20 billion of cuts. They knew the danger of heavy scrutiny of their record and - thanks to both the Tory and Liberal Democrat strategies - they've had remarkably little so far except from the public when they get the chance to wag their fingers at ministers.

Subject: She's lost it
Sent: 10.45am

One thing this campaign may be remembered for is the change of the political terms of trade.

Politicians are falling over each other to promise to spend more and look rather shame faced when promising to return your money in tax cuts.

Labour made an explicitly altruistic pitch this morning. Tony Blair said if your vote gives one pensioner more money, one youngster a new job then it's a vote you should be proud of.

David Blunkett was, as ever, even more explicit: "Those who need the government most are least likely to vote but most likely to lose out if they don't."

In that sense - if not in many others - Thatcherism has lost its hold on British politics.


Subject: The other election
Sent: 11.30am

Few signs so far of the other election many expect to start next week - that for Tory leader.

It's a cruel but entertaining sport for we political journalists to press those who want to be leader to praise the current one. Like football the action replay's often the time you really admire the fancy footwork.

Today Michael Portillo was asked to what extent the Tories election result - good or bad - would reflect on William Hague's leadership. "William could not have done better" he said leaving us to add the unspoken thought "THIS is the best William could do. I, on the other hand..."

Subject: General defection
Sent: 2.30pm

Not content with a man who owns three houses and employs a butler (Shaun Woodward), Labour has now recruited the pin-stripe suit wearing vice chairman of an investment bank - lifelong Tory, ex-MP and former Treasury minister Anthony Nelson.

A glance at his CV shows why he's switched. He's a lifelong passionate European who's argued for a single currency for almost three decades.

He's unlikely to be the talk of the Dog and Duck, but his defection is symbolically significant, not just of New Labour's broad church (too broad for some I suspect) but also of what I call the crumbling of the Tory coalition.

They've never actually split but they've been crumbling round the edges now for almost 10 years.

(Incidentally for the less high minded of you, not in his CV, but well worth remembering that he was once Fiona Fullerton's lover.)

Subject: Place your bets
Sent: 2.50pm

So good are the Lib Dems feeling about the campaign, they're beginning to throw caution to the wind. Campaign chairman Tim Razzall has already put 50 as a minumum for the number of seats they'll have on Friday. And privately he expects quite a few more.

When I interviewed him yesterday with Tory vice chairman Tim Collins, he even put 250 of his own money on a bet that his party would take Collins's Cumbrian seat.

Party strategists are particularly pleased with their promise to be "an effective opposition" because quite simply it means different things to different people.

Some believe the Lib Dems are set to replace the Tories which, on current poll ratings, there is a snowball's chance in hell of them doing. Others believe it is a promise to be effective as an opposition where they weren't in the last Parliament, though they've not promised to abandon any of their links with the Labour party. See what I mean...?!

Subject: Going postal
Sent: 3.10pm

No hanging chads in British elections, but dubious postal votes may be our equivalent.

Voting in Britain has always been based on trust (namely that you are who you say you are), and beyond Northern Ireland which produced the slogan "vote early, vote often", allegations of election fraud are rare.

The offer of a postal vote to anyone who wants one may prove a temptation too far, however.

It's easy to see how the elderly, or those for whom English is not their first language, or those who have problems reading or writing could be taken advantage of by people they trust, filling in "another of those forms" for them while in fact filling in their vote.

It would be a shame if this scares people off because the spread of postal voting is the only technique so far discovered that does seem to get the turnout up.


Nick- While I regret to admit it, I do have to argue that it was Chicago and the Democratic Machine that came up with the slogan, "Vote early and vote often", in the 1960s and 1970s. Congratulations on superbly entertaining column nonetheless.

Kavitha Babu, Chicago, US

Subject: Answer
Sent: 5pm

Kavitha, I'm sure you're right - though politics in West Belfast has at times drawn more more than a little inspiration from Tammany Hall!

Subject: What is going on?
Sent: 5.15pm

"Come Friday you will be surprised and we will be busy."

With these words, William Hague tried to kill suggestions this morning that the Tories know they have lost and that they are talking up a Labour landslide and scaring voters into backing them.

Why, then, have I just received a press release labelled "Hague: A Labour landslide can only make things worse" from no better source than Conservative Central Office?

Has someone forgotten the line to take?

Subject: Ooh and it makes me wonder
Sent: 6.25pm

It's been a long, long campaign. Hundreds of questions have been asked, and answers given, but pause a moment to think what we still don't know about a second Labour term. Is that their fault or ours, I wonder:

  • Will Labour scrap the pound?
  • Will Labour ban hunting?
  • Will Labour raise taxes if forced to choose between spending cuts and tax rises thanks to an economic downturn?
  • How will Labour reform the House of Lords?
  • Will Labour back son of Star Wars - President Bush's plans for missile defence?
  • Will Labour back production of GM foods?
  • Will Keith Vaz stay or go?

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