Election '97: Major is the message in search for floaters

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The Independent Online
John Major will make himself the message tonight with an election broadcast aimed at winning back doubting Tory voters.

The election broadcast was filmed last night at Downing Street by the Prime Minister who curtailed a day of campaigning in the Midlands and the North-east to begin a media blitz.

The Prime Minister's broadcast which will go out tonight will be in sharp contrast to Labour's "Tony Blair: The Movie" - screened last night. The script was agreed by the Prime Minister after talks with Lord Saatchi late on Wednesday night during a return flight from Scotland.

"Our strategy is to show what it could be like under a Labour government. It is part of a big media push," said one senior Conservative source.

The Prime Minister will underline his warnings that a Labour government would threaten prosperity and sign up to a federal Europe - two issues which Tory strategists believe have been making wavering supporters think again in the final days of the campaign.

It will be followed up by the Prime Minister in a series of television interviews on Sunday, the BBC Panorama programme on Monday, and Radio 1 on Tuesday.

Tory party strategists believe Labour will enter the final week of the campaign by changing the emphasis to the "rewards" of a Labour government, focusing on their five pledges including taking 250,000 young people off the dole.

That strategy was set out in Labour's "war book", but the Tories are keen to use Mr Major's personal popularity to persuade the "don't knows" to turn back to the Tories.

Mr Major privately concedes that he wished he had been able to speak more directly to more people but he continued to insist yesterday that the message on the doorstep was different from the polls.

He is refusing to give up in the face of expected defeat, as he did in 1992, although he is clearly looking as though the long campaign has taken its toll on his reserves of energy.

He toured the Jaguar plant in Coventry with his wife, Norma, to underline the economic changes which have taken place since the days of Red Robbo and demarcation disputes. He sat behind the wheel of a Tory blue XK8 sports car costing pounds 56,625 but Mrs Major, who drives a Rover, said: "John doesn't earn enough to buy a Jaguar."

If he loses next Thursday, that may change.

Mr Major has not been allowed to drive a car since becoming Prime Minister in November 1990, for security reasons, but he may be given new freedom to do so if the Tories are forced into opposition.

He may also soon be able to afford the Jaguar.

Close friends have predicted that after delaying standing down to prevent an unseemly scramble for the leadership, he may go back to the City, possibly returning to his former career in banking.

It is possible he could still plays an important role, even out of office, in the development of a single currency. Executives at Siemens have made it clear they support the single currency and Jaguar executives were also in favour of the "wait and see" approach.

Bibiano Boerio, the finance director of Jaguar, said: "From my personal perspective, it's probably something you need to keep shaping and managing.

"I'm a fighter and if you have an idea where you want to be, it's best to be involved and to help shape it."

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