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Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 21:04 GMT
The Campaign Today with Nick Robinson

It's Wednesday in the second week of the campaign. Join Nick Robinson as he goes in hunt of the issues, throughout the day.


Last updated at 2200BST
Click here for latest update


8am
The Tories will be feeling much more pleased with themselves this morning. They were absolutely livid with the broadcasters for suggesting that those signatures on a pledge to have a referendum on whether Britain should remain a member of the European Union was somehow a "Eurosplit" story for them again.

But this morning they've managed to turn the story on to the Labour party by pointing out how many Labour MPs have signed up, including one pro-European, Barbara Follett. Must be a mystery to many of her friends. Certainly is a mystery to Millbank Tower why her name's there. They're desperate, the Tories, to avoid this story, and I think they'll probably regard this as a squall that they just about managed to see pass them by.



10am
Fascinating to see this morning's papers, the day after the Tories' hard-hitting Willie Horton-style election broadcast.

Now the ad was designed to kick up a row. That's what the Tories wanted, they want to be noticed, they want to be criticised in order to be noticed. And the papers haven't particularly helped them.


Today's Daily Mail
You might have expected in another age that the Daily Mail, or The Sun, might have hunted down the two guys who have raped again after being released early by the government, and splashed them all over the front pages.

Instead, though, the Mail criticises the ad on its front page for being negative, for going down into the gutter. That will be a disappointment to the Tories, although some in the Labour camp see this in a different way.

They say the Mail is about generating cynicism about politics, and by calling the election "dirty", they're helping generate cynicism, they're helping to cut turnout, they're damaging Labour, and at the same time sticking in with their readers who they think are, frankly, bored by the election.



10.45am
JST COME UP ON THE "SPIN XPRESS" FROM EUSTN 2 BIRMGM - ALL THE PACK IN TOW FOR LABOUR MANFESTO LAUNCH



11am
Most of the cabinet, the prime minister, and all Her Majesty's press corps on the train. God help us if signalling had gone wrong - Railtrack would have had a few questions to answer. Breakfast in first class supplied by the Labour party, and a chance to chat with the chancellor, who came to talk to all of us hacks.


Mr Brown comes round for a chat
He expressed his frustration that the campaign is being seen too much in terms of process and not enough in terms of policy. Thinks that we journalists are too obsessed with what happens on the Westminster stage, and not the policies that affect everyday life.

I wonder if he might just be protesting in truth about all those stories about splits between him and the prime minister about the prime minister's determination to stay in office the next term. Arguments about tax too - heaven help us, maybe that's what it's about.


1pm



3pm
I'm on my mobile, on the way back from Birmingham. I take your point, Paul, but this SHOULDN'T be a boring election really. (Click to listen)



4pm
Well we can't say we weren't warned, because we were told there would be nothing new in Labour's manifesto, and there wasn't. They'd obviously decided to go low on rhetoric, low on the schmaltz, and high on lists. There were 10 goals, 25 next steps, five pledges and 10 big public service reforms - all in the one document.

Labour seems a bit touchy at the idea that it's not got much new to say. So we were briefed on the way up about how many words there were in the document, about how many pages and that there were many more than there were in the Tories', as if that were somehow proof. To be fair to them, there are lots of serious ideas in there, but they haven't really got the one eye-catching idea in the way Thatcher's manifestos did in the '80s. They don't seem too worried about that.

Blair has plumped for the renewal of public services. He sees this as his driving ambition and I guess if he can pull it off he really can claim it was a historic goal to have achieved



4.30pm
I'm intrigued by what was said and wasn't said on the euro. The manifesto just had one paragraph in the smallest possible print, on page 13, that didn't move us on at all. But when I asked the prime minister whether it was one of his ambitions to go into the euro, he said he was surprised I'd asked him because surely his policy of being in principle in favour of joining the single currency implied just that.

Well I've never heard him be so confident about saying that he was ambitious to join the euro. I think what's going on here is that Labour feel that if they can win this election they can say that this was a victory for a policy of going towards the single currency if not joining it. They can use any election victory to prepare the way for scrapping the pound, and that's a really interesting change of strategy.



4.45pm
WHILE ON MY WAY BACK IT SEEMS BLAIR HAD A RUN-IN WITH A "REAL" PERSON - SOUNDS LIKE IT WAS PRETTY EXPLOSIVE. SEE, PAUL, I TOLD U THNGS CD GET LIVELY!



10pm
Who said the election was boring?

There's never been a day in politics like this one. Just as we're getting over the extraordinary verbal assault on the prime minister, the deputy prime minister is involved in an assault all of his own.

The pictures show a clear chain of events. An egg is thrown at Prescott. He hits out at his assailant, who then jumps on him and has to be pulled back by three policemen.

Many politicians have been hit by eggs and even fruit before, but none - until now, that is - has hit the person throwing them.

So is John Prescott a self-defence hero or a lout who lashes out? That's the question on tonight's agenda, not to mention delicate legal questions best left unexplored here.



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