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Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Lib Dems on tour
Hunt and Kelly are on the Lib Dem battlebus
The campaign is now in week three, and Charles Kennedy's dash around the country continues unabated.

June Kelly and Peter Hunt are still following close behind, monitoring the leader's every move.

June Kelly's diary, Friday 1 June

Now that we are in the final week of the campaign, there is a feeling that things should be building to a frenzy. But we battlebus veterans - after three weeks in transit we feel we have earned this title - are in countdown mode.

Earlier this week, a fellow reporter was asked whether he was William Hague. He bears no resemblance at all to the Tory leader - for one thing, he boasts a full head of hair.

June Kelly
There is a real concern that the public might not actually be sharing our excitement. Despite days and nights of saturation TV coverage, it's clear that some voters still don't know what the party leaders look like.

Earlier this week, a fellow reporter on the Lib Dem battlebus was asked whether he was William Hague.

He bears no resemblance at all to the Tory leader - for one thing, he boasts a full head of hair.

On Thursday in Birmingham, as the Lib Dem leader's entourage arrived for a campaign pit-stop, a young man called across to me: "Is this the head of the Liberal Democrats coming?"

"Yes, their leader," I replied in a school-marm tone. "Who is he then?" was the next question.

Nigel Kennedy
People often mix the Lib Dem leader with violinist Nigel Kennedy
Charles Kennedy would acknowledge that much of his campaign has been aimed at raising his profile. He frequently jokes that he's been mistaken for the violinist Nigel Kennedy.

Another of his opening gambits is "Hello I'm Charles Kennedy, you may have seen my picture on a wanted poster". He seems to realise that when it comes to being famous it is easier for a criminal than a politician.

Peter Hunt's diary, Thursday 31st May

In years to come, when the history of this election is written, a short paragraph might be devoted to something I will call "placard rage".

I've seen it almost daily out on the road with Charles Kennedy. It goes something like this. Before he arrives, Liberal Democrat supporters assemble with their diamond shaped bright orange party posters.

They clash with the Leader's hair colouring, but are held aloft by the cheering multitude when he steps off the battlebus to provide a positive welcoming image for the television cameras.

So far so good. But every now and then, an interloper appears. Inevitably, he or she is clutching a "Keep the Pound" poster or a Tory-supporting banner.

The Lib Dem party workers try to obscure the Tory poster. The placard-wielding Tory does his or her level best not to be drowned out in a sea of orange.

Peter Hunt
Their intention is to stand behind Charles Kennedy as he walks around and get their message across. It is at that point that "spirited jostling", as one journalist described it, occurs.

The Lib Dem party workers try to obscure the Tory poster. The placard-wielding Tory does his or her level best not to be drowned out in a sea of orange.

All this is going on behind the leader. He carries on as if it's an every day experience, which it is. No blows or eggs are exchanged, but there is physical contact.

During a walkabout in Ludlow, Shropshire a Tory with a cut-glass accent declared, "Don't touch me physically."

In Kingston, on a walkabout with Honor Blackman of Pussy Galore, James Bond, fame - she said I could call her the original leather-clad Sixties icon - enthusiastic Lib Dem backers came up with a new technique.

They used a placard to obscure the face of a lone Conservative opponent as he attempted to talk to the cameras. One even snatched the man's leaflet and ran off with it in triumph.

Honor Blackman
Honor Blackman gave the Lib Dems her support
Another mistakenly thought he was working for Special Branch and tried to stop him getting near the Leader. And this from a party which says it's different from the rest and welcomes no holds barred confrontations on the streets.

The amazing thing is that Charles Kennedy gets a very easy time out and about. How would his supporters react if he was barracked in the way William Hague is?

June Kelly's diary, Wednesday 30 May

For all the parties, women are a problem. Every party has a shortage of female candidates in this election.

The Lib Dems like to stress their equal opportunity credentials, but on 7 June less than a quarter of their candidates will be women - and only a small number of these are in what seem to be winnable seats.

Tuesday was Women's Day for the Lib Dems - they wanted to focus on how their policies would help women of all ages.

But the party found itself answering questions about its shortage of Lib Dem women in high profile roles.

Kennedy agrees there is a lack of women in the party
At the daily news conference, party leader Charles Kennedy absented himself from the platform. He stood down in favour of four Lib Dem women politicians. The four all expressed regret that women weren't better represented in their party and that something must be done.

Charles Kennedy has said much the same thing and promised he will make the issue a priority after the election. It clearly is a fundamental problem for the Liberal Democrats.

At the Women's Day news conference, it was a male party official who showed which journalist could ask questions. He picked a clutch of men and just two women.

Our correspondents report from the battle buses

Following Blair

Following Hague

Following Kennedy

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