Election '97: THE HURRIED VOTER'S GUIDE

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THE CAMPAIGN

The Liberal Democrats began "Take Our Daughters to Work" day by highlighting new evidence from the Fawcett Society that women had been all-but invisible during the election campaign. The party launched its own plans to get a fair deal for women both at home and at work, .

Meanwhile, the other two parties continued to trade jibes over pensions, VAT and the economy. While the Conservatives claimed Labour's plans would leave a pounds 12bn "black hole" in the public finances, Labour claimed the Conservatives' plans would cost pounds 15bn.

Labour unveiled its eagerly-awaited video endorsement from businessman Alan Sugar before its leader, Tony Blair, promised a future of "one nation" politics for Britain.

Answering questions, Mr Blair repeated allegations that under the Conservatives the state pension would not be safe and that VAT could be imposed on such items as food and public transport. These claims were later hotly denied by the Conservatives.

John Major, meanwhile, removed himself to Coventry and Teesside, where he made a series of visits aimed at showing a booming economy.

He claimed Labour would put the country's competitiveness at risk by importing European-style industrial policies and tax levels - the European Social Model.

KEY ARGUMENTS

Both Labour and the Conservatives were in fighting mood.

Tony Blair began the day with the spectre of a fifth-term Tory government. "The choice is very simple. You either wake up [on 2 May] to the same old Tories who have got away with everything they wanted to, or a new start under Labour," he said.

Later Stephen Dorrell, the Health Secretary, hit back. "A rabbit caught in the headlights looks positively relaxed when compared with Mr Blair answering a question on economics."

Meanwhile another Conservative, the Chancellor Kenneth Clarke, was content to leave personal attacks to his colleagues. He was more interested in blowing his own trumpet.

"Immodestly - you are allowed to be immodest in elections - I lay claim to being the most successful Chancellor of the Exchequer since the war," he told the BBC's Today programme.

Malcolm Bruce, the Liberal Democrats' treasury spokesman, was in equally upbeat mood during a BBC radio phone-in.

"If the people of this country want a Liberal Democrat government - and millions do - they can still vote one in," he said.

ONE TO REMEMBER

Voters were offered something to look forward to yesterday when John Prescott announced that he and Tony Blair would dance round a maypole in Downing Street after the election in return for people coming out to vote Labour. "Tony Blair and I will dance around that maypole in Downing Street - providing we get everyone out to vote," he told voters in Tynemouth. "So let's go around knocking on doors."

HOGWASH

Pledge by Labour's Jack Cunningham: "Within a decade we could see Britain back where it should be, among the top 10 in the Olympics. I'm not saying number one or number two, but at least in the top 10, the place that we used to hold some years ago". Liberal Democrat sports spokesman Menzies Campbell could not resist responding :"Only Liberal Democrats are going for gold by providing real resources to make the difference to sport in schools."

THE OTHER PARTIES

The ProLife Alliance lost its bid for permission to fight a decision by television stations to screen it's party political broadcast. A High Court judge ruled that there were "no grounds" for a judicial review.

Meanwhile, today sees the launch of the Elvisly Yours party. Included in their revolutionary manifesto will be plans to introduce compulsory IQ tests for MPs, installing a sleazeometer in the Commons, and the abolition of Council Tax to be replaced by a special tax on the lecture tours of Margaret Thatcher. The only problem is that they have launched the party too late to field any candidates.

MEDIA STAR

Sulaiman Khan has more reason than the rest of us to be sick of the campaign. First his father, Imran Khan, launched a bid to become Prime Minister of Pakistan. Then his grandfather, Sir James Goldsmith, took it upon himself to warn the British people of the threat from Europe. Wheeled out onto the campaign trail on Putney Heath, Sulaiman could take it no more, and was sick all over his mother's chocolate-coloured dress, sending fazed party officials scurrying for the Wet Ones.

GOOD DAY BAD DAY

Paddy Ashdown got a boost when an opinion poll revealed 13 per cent of voters thought the Liberal Democrats had "run the most effective campaign so far", compared with only 11 per cent for the Tories. More good news came when Lady Meriel Darby, daughter of the former Tory prime minister Alec Douglas-Hume, said she was defecting to the LibDems. The latest Harris/Independent poll shows the party up two points at 15 per cent.

Conservative candidate Jerry Hayes was recovering after being hospitalised for the second time in the election campaign. He made the mistake of putting his hand through a letter-box while delivering an election communication. The dog on the other side was tough on leaflets and tough on the causes of leaflets. Mr Hayes visited hospital earlier this month after being punched in the face by a stranger while he was canvassing.

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