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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK

The Campaign Today with Nick Robinson

It's week three of the campaign, and Nick Robinson is still on the hunt for the lesser-spotted issue.

Last updated at 6.15pm
Click here for latest update


Subject: Tables turn
Sent: 8am

Ah so WE'RE the problem! Labour apparently believes that camera crews are inciting protesters to have a go at the prime minister and other ministers. Now there's clearly an issue about how we broadcasters behave, not just at political events but at potential trouble spots or riots, and Labour may have some genuine concerns.

But it does suggest a degree of touchiness from a party which is organising very carefully planned events that work on television only, such as the prime minister chatting to a group of nurses, but seems incredibly reluctant to let him get out among a non-invited group of people.


Subject: They haven't gone away, you know
Sent: 8.30am

One interesting development this morning - the re-emergence of the Tory press. So far the Daily Mail has virtually ignored this election campaign. But today a good - or bad - old fashioned Mail splash, scaring voters, particularly middle class ones, about their tax bills under a Labour government. The Sun meanwhile has it both ways. It prints the headline and the table of figures you might pay in its middle pages, but titilates the audience on its front page with a non-political story.

The Tories will be pleased their campaign tactics are working.


Subject: Stage directions
Sent: 9.20am

Thin skinned and pathetic. That's Charles Kennedy's description of Labour's worries about collusion between the broadcasters and protesters on Tony Blair's trip. Certainly the prime minister looked decidedly awkward about the story, playing as it does to suggestions that his party want to stage manage every aspect of this campaign. He protests that he does talk to ordinary people, and he does meet some at his photo opportunities, but they tend to be on his chosen topics - health and education, not people worried about the future of the pound or fox hunting and the like.

My colleagues in the writing press are chasing the suggestion Labour might even have leaked the letter themselves to divert attention from the National Insurance story. On that, Labour seem confident enough to simply say we're not giving any reassurances, even the ones we made at the last election.


9.25am
We're just at the Tory news conference - and there's a great rumour going round! (Click to listen)


1.46pm What's the point of Mrs Thatcher getting involved? Does she really hold any sway any more? Louise, Crewe


Subject: The Lady's not for yearning
Sent: 2.15pm

I think Margaret Thatcher has some sway, Louise, with certain people. Some loathe her memory, others still admire her as the strongest toughest leader that Britain's had since the war.

The Tories hope they can energise their base (as the Americans put it) by bringing out the Iron Lady, who still produces reactions among Tory audiences and, in my experience, London cab drivers, like almost no-one else. Tony Blair knows that too, which is why he always carefully praises her for the things she achieved on the economy and on industrial relations, while insisting it's time to move on.

The danger for the Tories is that one day Margaret Thatcher may say in public what she's alleged to believe in private - that we're almost at the end of any useful relationship with Europe and that her boy Hague is a bit of a let-down.


3.15pm
BLOW ME - THEYRE ALL AT IT - EVEN THE NURSES. HEALTH MINISTER HAS JST BEEN JEERED 4 CLAIMNG LABOURS HIRED 1000s NEW NURSES. "WHERE ARE THEY" THE CRY WENT UP


Subject: National Insurance Missile Defence
Sent: 4.49pm

While insisting that the public mood has changed on tax and that people will appreciate their honesty, Labour are doing all they can to distract from the recurring questions about national insurance.

Last night they fuelled the story about a row with broadcasters (some claim they were the source for it) in an attempt to change this morning's headlines and today they've laid on more stunts about the whereabouts of Oliver Letwin, offered us the chance to ask the prime minister about his views on Margaret Thatcher (though nothing else) and provided an early preview of a witty party election broadcast which is not due for broadcast until tomorrow.

Are they, perhaps, a little less certain of the changed public mood than they claim? Coming soon - a new interview with Gordon Brown clarifying their position.


6.15pm
THT PRTY BRDCST (LAB) IS QUITE FUN, BTW. A SPOOF MOVIE TRAILER WRNING "JST WHEN U THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE, THYRE BACK..ECONOMIC DISASTER 2"


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