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Saturday, 26 May, 2001, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK

Life on the Labour battlebus: Week 2

By campaign correspondent Carolyn Quinn

We visited a fire station in Kent with the prime minister this week - only a brief visit subject to the usual restrictions of course.

He spoke to the firemen, while we watched and listened from a media pen. But the fact that these were firemen was a break from the usual hospitals and schools.


" During a press conference, held at Southampton University, some journalists had the nerve to ask questions about other issues of the day "
Carolyn Quinn

The prime minister believes that if he visits enough hospitals and schools, we will be mesmerised into focusing on the issues of public services, health and education - subjects he covered in a major speech on Monday.

He accuses us in the media of being obsessed with events and personalities, like the Prescott punch or, even worse - horror of horrors - following the Tory agenda by questioning Government policy on taxation, National Insurance and Europe.

Anger at the media

On Wednesday, Mr Blair's frustration with the media bubbled over. He was launching Labour's education manifesto, and during a press conference, held at Southampton University, some journalists had the nerve to ask questions about other issues of the day - like National Insurance and Europe.

We were booed and hissed. Mr Blair was applauded when he chastised us for not concentrating on his issue of the day - education.

But there are dangers for Mr Blair in focusing on education. He has faced constant questions from students about Labour's policy on student loans and tuition fees.

On Wednesday, at Itchen College near Southampton, one bold youngster, Jo Balchin, wearing a Union flag T-shirt, asked if he was worried that some kids might consider prostitution or drug-dealing to pay their way through university.

"No need for that," said Mr Blair, and he blushed as she hugged him and patted his head.

Last night Mr Blair heard the voice of an angel. Charlotte Church did a turn at Labour's Bristol rally on the day that all three party leaders were in town.

What on earth had this smart city done to deserve it? Tony Blair prowled the stage, jacket off, with no script.

Fight apathy he said, choose Labour he said, and don't let the armchair critics in the media get you down.


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