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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 18:10 GMT
Labour unveils pledge card
Labour has unveiled the five election promises which form its pledge card for the next parliament.
This time the card, famously first used in the 1997 election, promises low mortgage rates and more teachers, doctors and police officers.
The pledge card received short shrift from the Conservative opposition, whose vice chairman Tim Collins accused Labour of "treating the electorate like idiots".
The pledges came towards the end of a hectic first full day of official campaigning, which had seen Prime Minister Tony Blair and Conservative leader William Hague clashing over the euro in their last face-to-face showdown before the 7 June election.
The card, which as in 1997 does not mention tax, was unveiled by Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling.
He said: "This card sets out the dividing lines between us and the Conservative Party during the election."
The pledges are to keep mortgages and inflation as low as possible; to have 10,000 extra teachers; 20,000 extra nurses; 6,000 extra police officers and the minimum wage increased to £4.20 an hour.
On Wednesday evening, in a question and answer session at St Albans in Hertfordshire, Mr Blair said: "These are the next stages of the programme of change we want to unfold before you."
The Liberal Democrats attacked the pledge card, with party chairman Malcolm Bruce saying that the promises were not new.
"These doctors, nurses and teachers were promised before but not delivered," said Mr Bruce.
Tim Collins, for the Conservatives, said the pledge cards were "typical of the arrogance and complacency of the Labour Party.
"They pulled this stunt once and they failed, now they are doing it again. They are treating the electorate like idiots."
Earlier, in their final prime minister's question time confrontation, Mr Hague challenged Mr Blair to "come clean, be straight and admit you want to ditch the pound as soon as you possibly can".
In reply Mr Blair told MPs: "In principle we are in favour of joining, in practice the economic conditions have to be met. We will give the final say to the British people in a referendum."
Mr Hague warned that the "central deception" of the election would be Mr Blair's pretence that he would give people a choice over the euro when in fact he was "planning to bounce them into the euro".
But Mr Blair said the Tory stance on Europe threatened the UK "with a choice between humiliation or exit from Europe.
"Neither is a particularly palatable choice".
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy asked Mr Blair if he regretted sticking to Tory spending plans for his first two years in power, given the effect on schools, hospitals and the police.
Mr Blair replied: "I do not regret the tough first two years because they were necessary."
Economy the issue
Earlier in the day the economy had emerged as the first battleground as campaigning got under way in earnest.
The Tories attacked the government's record on tax while Chancellor Gordon Brown said that only Labour could deliver "prosperity for all".
The Liberal Democrats have also opened their campaign.
Charles Kennedy is on a whistle-stop tour of 11 British cities by Friday.
Mr Kennedy, in his first campaign as Lib Dem leader, said the party would "reach out" to voters.
"There are potentially a great number of seats we can harvest in this election," he said.
Plaid Cymru has also launched its attempt to win more seats at Westminister.
At a news conference at the House of Commons, its policy director Cynog Dafis pledged to put public transport and more power for the Welsh Assembly at the heart of its campaign.
09 May 01 | UK
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