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Thursday, 7 June, 2001, 21:04 GMT 22:04 UK
Campaign highs and lows
John Prescott brawl in Rhyl
Highlight or low point of the 2001 election campaign?
BBC News Online's Chris Hamilton looks back at the high and low points of the election campaign.

Whatever it says about the current state of British politics, memories of the 2001 general election campaign could well be dominated by one thing: John Prescott's punch.

Tony Blair sings at the campaign launch event
Tony Blair sang Labour's praises
Even as the parties dithered over how to handle it, the deputy prime minister's instinctive reaction to an egg hurled from point blank range injected a spark of life into what had otherwise been a moribund campaign.

The previous week things had got off to a controversial start with Tony Blair's almost evangelical appearance at a south London secondary school.

Labour's own Clare Short remarked that it was "odd". The school's head called it a "pantomime" - though her remarks were aimed mainly at the media.

Storer's spanner

The Conservatives got off to a flying start with a slick manifesto launch, and Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy set his campaign tone with an exhausting tour of 11 cities in three days.

But Mr Blair ran into more trouble with an image destined to haunt him for sometime: being harangued by a very disgruntled Sharron Storer.

Sharron Storer confronts Tony Blair
Sharron Storer threw a spanner in Labour's image management machine
She was disgusted at the state of the Birmingham hospital where her partner was being treated for cancer; Mr Blair struggled to placate her; Labour explained it as a genuine meet-the-people moment; his opponents had a field day.

One of the prime minister's predecessors hit the campaign trail too, providing entertainment of a sort in The Mummy Returns - as Lady Thatcher herself billed it.

Poster power

She also made an involuntary appearance as Labour merged her hair and ear rings - and even a hint of lipstick - with Mr Hague's face for a memorable campaign poster.

However, the Tories more than held their own in the poster stakes.

Lady Thatcher back on the campaign trail
Lady Thatcher made her points in forceful style
They put a grinning Mr Blair in a bubble with a pin hovering alongside and the invitation to voters: "Go on, burst his bubble".

More controversial was their election broadcast effectively accusing Labour of triggering two rapes under a government early release scheme for convicted criminals.

The Tories faced accusations themselves after racial unrest in Oldham midway through the campaign.

Apology demanded

Their language on asylum didn't help, said the Lib Dems, provoking demands for an apology from a furious William Hague.

It was an ex-Tory who provided another headache for Labour as Shaun Woodward won selection for the safe seat of St Helens South, sparking anger from some local Labour supporters.

Martin Bell
Martin Bell evoked memories of 1997 and all that
Another headline-grabbing candidate was independent Martin Bell standing in Brentwood and Ongar in Essex, hoping to repeat his success against Neil Hamilton at Tatton in 1997.

Meanwhile the parties insisted they wanted to concentrate on policies, not personalities... but still they wheeled out the celebrities.

Labour probably topped the bill with Geri Halliwell offering fellow musician Tony Blair her endorsement.

'Sexy' Kennedy

But the Tories hit back with comedian Jim Davidson while the Lib Dems had actress Honor Blackman calling Charles Kennedy "sexy".

Even the Socialist Labour Party joined in with support from Ricky Tomlinson, star of BBC sitcom The Royle Family, who objected to "control freakery" in Tony Blair's New Labour.

Jordan appealed to voters for support
But the biggest celebrity involvement in some senses came from glamour model Jordan, standing as a candidate for Stretford and Urmston in Manchester and hoping for a somewhat unlikely swing vote.

If that was a blow to the feminist cause, Westminster's media pack launched a counter-attack with a self-declared Ladies Day, designed to highlight the low profile of women in the campaign.

The point was made for them at Labour's morning news conference when Schools Minister Estelle Morris was asked a question and Chancellor Gordon Brown interrupted in an attempt to answer for her.

Despite such breaks with tradition Vote 2001 did feature at least one British election perennial: the Monster Raving Loony Party, this time led by Alan "Howling Laud" Hope and his Cat-Mandu.


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