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Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 08:01 GMT 09:01 UK
Life on the Labour battlebus: Week one
Tony Blair in Brighouse, Yorkshire
Blair went on his first walkabout in Brighouse, Yorkshire
By campaign correspondent, Carolyn Quinn

If anything, this week has demonstrated that even the most stage-managed political campaign can suffer its glitches. And when the glitches come, boy are they big.

It all started so well in Labour's terms. A big philosophical speech by the prime minister in Sedgefield on Sunday, a visit to a building site in Aberdeen on Monday - where, we were told, they had excavated the largest hole in the Highlands - and a tape-cutting ceremony on Manchester Airport's new runway on Tuesday.

Wednesday was supposed to be manifesto day - a grand unveiling in Birmingham.

Caroline Quinn is on Labour's campaign bus
Caroline Quinn is on Labour's campaign bus
Tony Blair made his speech from a brightly lit stage. Cabinet Ministers were positioned on one side, while representatives of local workers, like teachers and nurses, were on the other. He took questions from journalists - a lengthy session.

But how quickly things can change. Within minutes, rumours were flying that some Labour officials had been trying to persuade certain journalists to ask specific questions of Mr Blair, with the guarantee that they would be called.

Then that was eclipsed by the prime minister's confrontation with Sharon Storer at Edgbaston Hospital. His attempt to draw her inside was brushed off, and the whole emotional drama played out in front of the TV cameras.

And then that was eclipsed by the "Rumble in Rhyl".

There is no doubt that John Prescott is a real person, not a robotic politician. Before Wednesday, real people had been in short supply on the Labour campaign trail.

The constant media criticism was that Tony Blair was being moved around in a stage-managed bubble, from question and answer session, to speeches, to school and hospital visits - all without really engaging in the so-called dialogue with the people that he has talked about.

All that changed on Tuesday when the prime minister completed a four minute walkabout in Brighouse in West Yorkshire. He bought fish-and-chips in the Happy Haddock, and wiped the grease from his hands onto his trousers in order to shake hands with the real people.

How real can you get?

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