Election '97 : Major scraps election film to focus on Euro splits

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The Independent Online
The Conservative Party's election broadcast schedule was scrapped yesterday so that the Prime Minister could deal with the splits on Europe that are damaging the party.

A film made by the Tories' advertising agency, M&C Saatchi, about the economy and falling unemployment, was due to be broadcast last night to coincide with yesterday's release of the latest unemployment figures.

Instead Mr Major decided to record a personal message on camera to explain his "wait and see" policy on Britain's entry to a single European currency.

The film was made in less than an hour in the party's London headquarters by a film crew from M&C Saatchi.

The message was a version of the impassioned statement Mr Major made to journalists earlier at the party's morning press conference.

Aides claimed the fired-up Prime Minister recorded the address in one take, unrehearsed and without the benefit of notes. The five minute film is likely to have cost the party much less than the pounds 250,000 spent on its famous "Return to Brixton" film in 1992.

It is not known if the party will re-schedule the film on unemployment.

The Tories are estimated to have spent pounds 2m making five election broadcasts during the 1992 general election. Labour, which uses volunteer directors as well as professionals at its advertising agency BMP DDB, is likely to spend around pounds 200,000 on its five films for this campaign.

Making the new broadcast delayed the Prime Minister's trip to Stockton- on-Tees to meet Baroness Thatcher for a photo opportunity.

The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail are trying to create an alternative election platform for the Conservative Party based on opposition to a European single currency.

Tuesday's Mail used John Major's visit to disgruntled fishermen in Newlyn as a hook to declare a "Battle for Britain" on its front page. Inside the newspaper published photographs and names of 76 Tory candidates opposed to a single currency. It also published a "Battle for Britain Hotline" number for candidates to fax through their election addresses.

The Mail's first and second editions yesterday, when ministers John Horam and James Paice were unearthed as opposing government policy, illuminated its attitude to the issue. The Mail believes it does the Tories more good to be seen as anti-EU than harm to be seen as divided on the issue.

It scrapped its early front page story about trade unions - "Labour's bully boys are back" - in favour of "Europe: The great revolt". Inside it printed another 66 photographs of Tory dissenters and a list of 140 candidates who now oppose the single currency.

The Telegraph must have felt suitably miffed. It started writing to Tory candidates at the end of last week to ask for their election addresses. Only yesterday did it manage to print the positions of 117 candidates whose election addresses it had received. Only 52 of the Telegraph's candidates were explicitly opposed to the single currency, but even without the inducement of a photograph, more addresses were being received by the newspaper last night.