Election '97: Labour film asks: Just why aren't you a Tory, Mr Blair?

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The Independent Online
Tonight, Tony Blair will be posed the question many old Labour supporters have wanted to ask him for some time: "Why aren't you a Tory?"

The question will be asked during Labour's latest election broadcast, filmed by Molly Dineen, the celebrated documentary maker, in the party's latest attempt to market Mr Blair as a better leader than John Major.

In a deliberately raw and frank 10-minute film, Ms Dineen tries to capture the essence of Tony Blair in a fly-on-the-wall style that contrasts markedly with the famously slick Hugh Hudson packaging of Neil Kinnock in 1987.

Ms Dineen was given access to Mr Blair for about five weeks, filming him at home with his children, campaigning, playing tennis and football and travelling by car and train to engagements.

The overall impression is of a young family-man desperate to get across the message that not all politicians are the same, that Britain can change and that he is the man to make it happen.

Ms Dineen said she approached Labour to make the film, rather than the other way round, and she insisted there had been no interference from the party, although she knew it would be used as an election broadcast and would, therefore, have to conform to a "broad menu".

"I went into this feeling impressed by Blair and I came out feeling impressed," she said at a preview yesterday. "I liked him very much. I especially think he is wonderful, really wonderful with his kids. I was able to film them a little, but, as a parent, he didn't want me to feature them too much. That would make them fair game."

The film includes footage of Mr Blair making tea in the kitchen of his home in Islington, north London, and has limited shots of him talking to his three children. At one point, he grins and warns them: "Lots of homework for you. Wait until David Blunkett gets hold of you!"

Peter Mandelson, Labour's campaign manager, said he hoped the broadcast would help to cut through some of the cynicism felt towards politicians in general. "It is about Blair the man," he said. "It is not gimmicky or flashy and it has no artifice, it has no varnish. It is almost raw in its treatment of Tony Blair. You could say, we have a great asset here and let's show him off."

Only those who know him very well will know whether Ms Dineen has captured the essence of Mr Blair. However, in asking why he isn't a Tory, she elicited a response that forms the essence of his philosophy; that there is nothing wrong with ambition and success, but that your achievements are hollow if you have ignored the disadvantaged in society on the way.

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