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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Rawnsley's Election

Andrew Rawnsley writes a special midweek column for BBC News Online with his take on the election campaign.

! New on June 6 !

The voters have yet to make their decision in the ballot box- but we can give a verdict on the campaigns. By common consent, it has been a good one for Charles Kennedy.

The Liberal Democrat leader has surprised many- perhaps himself more than anyone else- with the successful manner in
Charles Kennedy
Kennedy: affable
which he has come across. He naturally feared at the outset that unflattering contrasts might be drawn between his more relaxed style and that of his predecessor, the hyper-active Paddy Ashdown. But the keen marine has added his congratulations to the accumulating heap of them for the attractively affable approach of 'Honest' Charlie.

William Hague once said that he had been lucky all his life. Does the Conservative leader feel lucky today? If the opinion polls are to believed, then he has spent four weeks running hard to go nowhere.

Mr Hague insists that the polls are not to be believed; he will surprise us yet.
William Hague
Hague: dogged
Even his critics concede that the Conservative leader's doggedness and resilience are something to be wondered at- even admired. He has also managed- contrary to expectations- to keep his frontbench disciplined under fire, unlike 1997 when they were openly manoeuvring for a post-election leadership contest weeks before polling day.

Tony Blair is the only leader who has fought an election before, but even for him it is a sort of first. Last time he was the fresh challenger; this time he is the more office-worn incumbent. In 1997, he fought a cautious campaign, loaded most heavily with reassurance that Labour was safe to let back into Government. This time, more liberated from his nerves, and more confident of victory, he has tried to be bolder about his ambitions for a second term.

Uncomfortable in some of the set-piece interviews,
Tony Blair
Blair: liberated from nerves
he has been best when he has managed to turn even angry confrontations with disappointed voters into an opportunity to make his case for more spending against tax cuts. Tony Blair always needs something to worry about. His fret in the hours remaining is that too much talk of a landslide majority might rebound to deny him one.


Internet Link:

Click here to read Andrew's regular column in The Observer


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