Another week, another fight for the front page

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Just because one of the two main parties is staging its annual conference doesn't mean the calling of a truce in the public relations battle with the enemy, writes Stephen Castle. Last week was no exception. Here's how the rival spinners scrapped for the public's attention:

MONDAY: William Hague's week gets off to a bad start with a photo-call at a deserted Fleetwood fish depot. The next day's Daily Telegraph says the event "made the much-maligned photographs of Mr Hague in a baseball cap on a funfair waterchute and drinking coconut cocktails at the Notting Hill carnival look like public relations triumphs". But the lead story has the headline "Hague's reforms backed by 70pc". News at Ten covers Mr Hague's speech to party agents.

Tony Blair spends his day in Moscow riding the metro, taking part in a soap opera and enjoying a salmon and caviar lunch with President Yeltsin. On the plane home Mr Blair avoids talking to the media, ensuring they have few options about what to write. Tories 2, Labour 3 (including 1 Tory own goal).

TUESDAY: Hague's first speech to party conference is marred by noises off - as Lord Tebbit attacks multi-culturalism, and Alan Clark suggests the IRA could be beaten by killing 600 people. The Tory spin operation is slow in slapping them down, but finally gets it right: an anonymous source describes them as "dinosaurs". Tories win the photo-opportunity of the day when Hague's fiancee Ffion wears her new frock, a black lacy number reputedly costing pounds 2,000. Blair has his own high-profile event: a meeting with Bill Gates of Microsoft. Tories 1, Labour 2 (incl 1 Tory own goal).

WEDNESDAY: The Tory conference debates internal reform with a row ensuing. Shadow Cabinet splits emerge on the single currency. Labour's initiative is less lightweight: Greg Dyke, who brought Roland Rat to TV-am, is drafted in to revamp the Patient's Charter. Tories 1, Labour 1.

THURSDAY: Michael Portillo's speech calls for compassionate Conservatism, but Labour spinners are back in business. News of an announcement on the future of the Royal Yacht "leaks" to the BBC. This, rather than the Tory conference, is the lead on the Nine O'clock News. Tories 1, Labour 1.

FRIDAY: Mr Hague's speech dominates the bulletins. Mr Blair visits Strasbourg to stress Britain's commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights. Tories 2, Labour 1.

Final score: Tories 7, Labour 8.

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