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UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
"The thing that matters for us is substance"
 real 28k

Conservative leader William Hague
"There are a lot of business men and business women who will be supporting the Conservative party"
 real 56k

The BBC's Sean Curran
rounds up the days events so far
 real 28k

Monday, 14 May, 2001, 09:28 GMT
Labour claims business vote
Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown says Labour is the party of business
Labour has moved to depict itself as the party of business.

As the first full week of campaigning began, Prime Minister Tony Blair said that Labour offered voters the chance "to enjoy a stable economy" for the first time in a generation.

Party focus
Labour: Business
Tories: Motorists
Lib Dems: Education
The Conservatives started their week by claiming that a Labour government would mean ever higher fuel prices.

For their part, the Liberal Democrats have chosen to focus on education arguing that their tax plans would provide an extra 3bn for spending on schools.

Speaking to BBC News on Monday ahead of a visit to Scotland, Mr Blair said: "Labour today is the party of business and enterprise.

"There is now a chance of this country enjoying a stable economy for the first time in decades."

Chancellor Gordon Brown went on to focus further on that message at the party's morning news conference.

Francis Maude
Mr Maude issued a fuel warning
He said he wanted the UK to move closer to United States levels of "business dynamism" and a promised a lower tax rate on the profits of small firms.

And he went on to outline as series of measures which will be in Labour's manifesto, due to be published on Wednesday.

Those included a move to make the Competition Commission independent and a reform of planning laws to make business development decisions easier.

Mr Brown was flanked by Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers and Employment Minister Tessa Jowell.

Labour's claim to be the party of big business followed the publication of a letter in The Times newspaper from more than 50 company executives, praising the government's stewardship of the economy.

Policies praised

Labour believes that support from business leaders like Alan Sugar, the chairman of the electronics company Amstrad, is an endorsement of their handling of the economy.

Some of the signatories had voted Conservative until now, according to the newspaper.

At the Tory's morning press conference, shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude attacked Labour saying that a Labour government would be a "one-way ticket" to higher fuel prices.

"We have already shown how Labour's plans to spend more than the country is earning means petrol at 6 a gallon," he said.

"Labour would lock Britain into a Europe-wide regime of higher fuel taxes."

The Conservatives are due to announce a further series of measures designed to help motorists, following their pledge to cut fuel duty by 6p a litre.

The party's Right to Drive policy will include proposals to:

  • Speed up construction of bypasses.

  • Scrap underused bus lanes.

    Kennedy, Blair, Hague
    The party leaders face the first full week of campaigning

  • Allow cars to turn left through a red light "where it is safe to do so".

  • Reduce impact of roadworks by penalising companies who over-run their contracts.

  • Introduce variable speed limits.

    Conservative leader William Hague is spending the morning campaigning in Norwich before going on to Wales.

    Extra cash

    At their first campaign news conference of the week the Lib Dems concentrated on their plans to improve the education system.

    Leader Charles Kennedy unveiled the plan to target schools, colleges and universities with the aim of giving every child in Britain a "consistently high quality education".


    A decent education is fundamental to individual freedom

    Charles Kennedy
    At the news conference, he said they would cut average class sizes in primary schools to 25, recruit extra secondary school teachers and abolish "irrelevant and time-consuming red tape".

    The plan would be funded from a 1p rise in the basic rate of income tax if the party won power.

    He is due to visit Cornwall later in the day.

    Added spice

    Labour will later unveil a new secret weapon, in the form of ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell who will appear in a Labour election broadcast on Monday evening, serving tea to a group of pensioners.

    Monday will also see the official dissolution of parliament.

    Other parties seeking to make headway will be Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru, Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist party, and the anti-euro UK Independence party - all of which are launching their election manifestos.

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