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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Unruly pupils star in Tory film
A scene from the election broadcast
The Tories paint a bleak picture of British schools
A new Conservative election broadcast portrays a Britain where the classrooms lie empty while children run riot in the streets.

Images of youngsters dealing drugs, setting cars alight and daubing walls with graffiti when they should be in lessons dominate the film.


We have explained the problems that exist, shown how Labour are making them worse and are offering an alternative

Conservative official
A second part of the broadcast, to be shown on Thursday evening, illustrates the Tory prediction of the problems which would beset Britain if it enters the European single currency.

The broadcast was immediately attacked by Labour Education Secretary David Blunkett, who said it was "an insult to our teachers, pupils and parents".

The film is likely to provoke the same accusations of scare mongering which followed previous broadcasts but Tory officials insist it shows the "positive choices" between the parties.

Teacher shortages

It is designed to convey the Tory view that teacher shortages, a decline in schools' ability to discipline children and increases in youth crime under Labour are "clearly related".

It begins with a girl struggling with her homework, listing the string of teachers who have come and gone.

The film claims teacher shortages are at their worst for 10 years, that there are 10,000 vacancies in secondary schools, and that some schools are running on a four-day week.

"What are your children learning under Labour?" it asks, against a backdrop of pictures of children committing crime while classrooms and playgrounds lie empty.

A Tory government would "offer parents discipline, standards and choice in schools", says the party.

Mr Blunkett claimed the broadcast ignored the fact that class sizes had risen during the last Conservative government.

He said: "The broadcast is the television equivalent of a William Hague speech - nothing positive, no vision for the future and no understanding of the need to invest in our schools rather than insult our teachers."

The film comes as Labour and the Liberal Democrats challenged William Hague to shift the emphasis onto public services such as schools and the NHS.

But party officials say they always planned to screen the film now.

Euro threat

In the section on the euro, the broadcast suggests steps towards joining the currency could hit the British economy.

And it shows the UK government losing control over interest rates while fishermen find the number of fishing days cut by Britain.

In a reference to Sunderland's "metric martyr" Steven Thoburn, there is a scene of a market trader selling fruit in euros.

Tory officials deny charges of negative campaigning.

One said: "In all the sequences to date, we have explained the problems that exist, shown how Labour are making them worse and offering an alternative."

They insist they are offering positive choices: "discipline, standards and choice in schools" and "saving the pound".

They claim they are focusing on present-day problems while Labour broadcasts centre on 10-year-old events.

That argument comes after Labour screened a broadcast attacking Mr Hague and shadow chancellor Michael Portillo in a spoof movie called "Economic Disaster II".

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