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Labour moved to put business back at the top of its agenda, with a promise to help entrepreneurs and to send "business ambassadors" for Britain around the globe. High-profile business-people including Anita Roddick were shown backing Labour on video at the party's morning news conference, and the party claimed Britain had fallen to number 21 in the world prosperity league.

The Conservatives concentrated on law and order, setting out a five-year plan to cut crime by 10 per cent. Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, launched a swingeing attack on Labour for being "soft on crime", but also said the Tories would attack the causes of crime - half of Labour's strategy on the subject.

The Liberal Democrats made a pitch for the youth vote with a seven-point plan launched by 34-year-old Matthew Taylor, the youngest MP in the last session of Parliament. It was later revealed that Mr Taylor was likely to be undercut in the age stakes at the next election by an incoming Labour member. Paddy Ashdown went to the Isle of Wight, where he found himself in a spat with his candidate, Morris Barton, who had been campaigning for partial independence for the island.

"Everybody knows that's not the Liberal Democrat policy," Mr Ashdown said.


Tony Blair made a speech claiming that he was simultaneously a "modern man" with a fresh set of 21st century ideas and the baton-carrier for Labour leaders down the ages including Keir Hardie, Clement Atlee and Harold Wilson.

Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, launched an attack on Labour, the unions and Europe, saying Blair's European policy was "the pay-off to the unions for their silence before the election so that they get their power back after the election".

A Conservative election broadcast showed a party in the mood for parables. Labour, it said, was "a tree without roots" which "at the first blow from the trade unions, would cave in".

Paddy Ashdown joined the party leaders' rush to be the most patriotic.

"Is it patriotism to stand by and watch as our society becomes more and more divided? As young people are forced to sleep rough on our streets? As people are left behind in poverty, without hope?

"A true patriot would be ashamed of the Government's record over the last five years ... How dare they wrap up such failure in the Union Jack," he said.


Scottish devolution movements can go too far even for the SNP. An Orkney Islander phoned the party leader Alex Salmond on the BBC's Election Call to ask whether he thought the islands should be independent of an independent Scotland. Mr Salmond did not like the idea, nor the suggestion that the Orkneys might even wish to affiliate to Norway. He said "the rights we claim for Scotland are those of a nation, and national self- determination".


A speech from Tony Blair: "I am a modern man. I am someone of my generation. I am someone who is facing up to these issues in a modern way." Blair said people wanted "a party that can take this country forward and make sense of the modern world, rather than attempting to shy away from it and simply retreat backwards". He explained Labour had been liberated from "out-dated prescriptions, to allow the values to take root again in the modern world".


Plaid Cymru said yesterday that the effects of the squabbling over Europe could be "devastating". Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, the former leader of the party, said that the level of inward investment and European funding which is attracted could not be sustained, let alone increased.

Meanwhile the Green Party's principal speaker, David Taylor, is to address a meeting of Somerset County Council, to criticise the council's decision to switch money from public transport provision to a project to build a road to a quarry which is supplying gravel ... for another road.


The ProLife Alliance hit the headlines yesterday when broadcasters announced that their party election broadcast, which was due to be shown tomorrow, has to be altered after it was deemed to breach taste and decency guidelines. It features shots of body parts from foetuses aborted at clinics in the United States. Bruno Quintavelle, who runs the ProLife Alliance, said last night that his party was consulting lawyers.

Channel 4 also announced it was considering whether to show the PEB of the British National Party.


Long live the Queen - so says SNP leader Alex Salmond, who pointed out that the party supported the right of Elizabeth I, Queen of the Scots, to be head of state when she resident in Scotland. When absent, her role would be filled by the speaker of the notional Scottish parliament. But more ominously for HM, he added the Queen should rule "until such time as the people of Scotland indicate otherwise".

After years of fighting Conservative social policy, Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead and chair of the Commons Social Services Committee, found himself quoted on the election leaflet of Peter Lilley, the Secretary of State for Social Security. The leaflet quotes Mr Field as saying of Mr Lilley: "He has a very clear view of changing ... the welfare state, and he is doing it very skilfully."