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 A/V REPORTS
The BBC's Nicholas Jones
"Labour denied Mr Blair had fallen into the trap of simply promoting himself"
 real 56k

The BBC's Norman Smith
"The Tories say this is hypocrisy"
 real 28k

Sunday, 27 May, 2001, 22:08 GMT 23:08 UK
Blair film gets personal
Tony Blair shares a pint with supporters
Blair relaxes with a pint in the broadcast
TV viewers have been invited to meet the "real Tony Blair" in an election broadcast which shows him drinking beer in a local pub.

Despite his previous attacks on the media for personalising the election campaign, the film concentrates on the prime minister's life and achievements in office.


This nauseatingly hypocritical vanity film proves that Mr Blair has nothing to say about those real issues

Tory party chairman Michael Ancram
The Conservatives described it as a "nauseatingly hypocritical vanity film" and said it showed Labour had failed to deliver on its promises.

Labour insisted Mr Blair's qualities of leadership were important, adding that the party leader had joined other ministers to take calls from members of the public in a phone-in following the broadcasts.

Very lucky

The film shows Mr Blair relaxing in his Sedgefield constituency, in County Durham, having a pint with supporters and chatting with school children.

Mr Blair re-emphasises Labour's election pledges cut crime and improve education - he pays tribute to his own schooling, saying that he was "very lucky".

"It opened doors for me that otherwise would have remained completely shut."

Tony Blair
Blair takes calls after the election broadcast
And he talks of how everyone wants a decent job, a stable economy, a good start in life for their children and for their parents to be looked after.

"It's not rocket science as to what people want or need."

Tory party chairman Michael Ancram condemned the film as "hypocritical", adding: "If Mr Blair really wants to debate the real issues he come out from his sanitised, self-congratulatory cocoon and accept the challenge to have a TV debate with William Hague."

Legitimate

Mr Blair's spokesman, Alastair Campbell, insisted the film was not hypocritical.

It was "legitimate and entirely sensible" for the film to focus on Mr Blair's leadership qualities when Conservative leader William Hague had been so weak, the spokesman told journalists ahead of the broadcast on Sunday night.


It's not rocket science as to what people want or need

Tony Blair
Labour intends to focus the campaign even more in the run-up to polling day on Mr Blair's leadership qualities.

Mr Campbell said: "The election campaign has highlighted the weaknesses we have drawn attention to - that Mr Hague cannot escape from the shadow of Thatcher, that he is unable to give direction, heal the divisions in his party or give the Conservatives any real sense of leadership."

After each screening of the broadcast - on six separate TV channels - Mr Blair and other Labour ministers took calls from members of the public at the party's Millbank headquarters.

Real people

Viewers called in to quiz Mr Blair on issues ranging from asylum to investment in public services.

Also fielding calls were Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Home Office minister Paul Boateng.

Trade and Industry minister Patricia Hewitt took e-mails from viewers.

Labour hopes the operation will help dispel accusations that Mr Blair is not meeting "real people" on the campaign trail.

The latest election broadcast is reminiscent of the 1987 election campaign when former Labour leader Neil Kinnock was featured walking near his south Wales home with Beethoven's ninth symphony playing in the background.

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