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The BBC's Philippa Thomas
"Mr Hague... is still insisting he can win this election"
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Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 06:31 GMT 07:31 UK
Parties cool campaign heat
Charles Kennedy, Tony Blair and William Hague
Amid signs that the election campaign is becoming increasingly personalised, the three main parties insist they want to return the focus to the policy battleground.

Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats intend to spend Wednesday highlighting plans to help pensioners.


Most people expect the Labour Party to win

William Hague

Labour will start the day by warning the public that interest payments on mortgages could rise under a Conservative government.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair has used an article for the Sun to say it is absurd to think a goverment could bounce the British people into a snap decision about the euro on the back of an election win.

And William Hague has acknowledged that the 7 June poll is not the last chance to save the pound.

The former Tory prime minister Lady Thatcher has re-entered the fray - saying that any move to the euro would be "spineless".

She told the BBC on Wednesday that scrapping the pound would be "utterly repugnant" to her.

Shift to policies

The parties' agendas for Wednesday contrast with the increasingly bitter exchanges over leadership that marked the end of Tuesday's campaigning.

Labour launched a highly personalised poster assault on Mr Hague while the Conservatives attacked Mr Blair's "bare-faced deception".

On Wednesday Labour will try to focus the campaign on its handling of the economy, saying they are now the party of the homeowner - language that was once the preserve of the Tories.

Labour says Mr Hague - who on Tuesday night admitted he took over the Tory party at its lowest point for 100 years - has now made a "horrendous misjudgement" by offering unaffordable tax cuts.

But the Conservative will be highlighting how their tax cuts will benefit families - and pensioners in particular.

The shadow social security secretary - David Willetts - says most pensioners would be better off under the Tories' plans to increase the basic state pension and to scrap taxes on most savings.

William Hague... or is it Lady Thatcher?
Labour have chosen an eye-catching new image
The Liberal Democrats hope to make their mark as the only party guaranteeing free long term care for the elderly in England and Wales - following the lead of the Scottish Parliament.

New research published by the party shows that in the past year 70,000 pensioners have been forced to sell their home to pay for care.

Despite all the parties saying they want to debate the real issues, Labour are making clear they will continue to contrast the leadership qualities of Tony Blair with William Hague.

Its new poster suggests Mr Hague is little more than a clone of former prime minister Lady Thatcher by merging his face with her hair.

Although Lady Thatcher was on the campaign trail herself on Tuesday - saying "all is not lost" for her party - it was her successor, John Major, who landed the hardest punch with a stinging attack on Mr Blair.

He accused Labour of using spin verging on "bare-faced deception" and hailed Mr Hague as "a shrewd, straight-talking Yorkshireman".

Meanwhile Mr Hague, appearing on BBC 2's Newsnight on Tuesday, was asked if he could think of a more difficult time to become Tory leader than when he did after Mr Major and the 1997 election defeat.

"Well, probably after 1906 (when a huge Tory majority was destroyed in a Liberal landslide), but none of us were around then," he replied.

Hague fights on

Insisting the party had made "enormous progress" since then he acknowledged that they remained the underdogs in the current campaign.

"But we are fighting, we can win this election," he said.

He was speaking shortly before an ICM poll in Wednesday's Guardian emerged suggesting Labour's lead over the Conservatives is widening.

It puts Labour on 47%, with the Tories nineteen points behind on 28% and the Lib Dems unchanged at 17%.

'Proud record'

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy sought to keep his own campaign galvanised on Tuesday night by talking up their record of action - and promising more.

"It's a record I'm proud of and a record I believe will lead us to even greater success at this Westminster general election," he told a rally in Scotland.

The need to have the Lib Dems at Westminster as a "principled, cohesive" opposition force had never been greater, he said.

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