Election '97 : THE HURRIED VOTER'S GUIDE

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THE CAMPAIGN

The day began with the news that Dame Angela Rumbold, a Tory party vice-chairman, had spoken out against a single currency. Edwina Currie, the Europhile Conservative candidate and former minister, accused the Prime Minister of allowing candidates to set policy.

In Tatton, the anti-sleaze candidate, Martin Bell, postponed handing in his nomination papers after being advised his description of his party in his papers could leave him open to a legal challenge.

In Europe, Britain was out-voted as new targets for the trawler fleet were set in the name of conservation. Fishermen's leaders immediately warned Labour to take a strong stance on the issue or risk losing votes.

Labour announced plans to set up education 'action zones' to try to boost standards in urban areas, and the Liberal Democrats criticised the Government for its "persistent failure" to safeguard public health and the interests of consumers and farmers over the continuing BSE crisis.

Labour's new British bulldog, star of the party's election broadcast last night, was attending a photo-call yesterday. But David Blunkett's guide dog, Lucy, was less keen to share the limelight and stayed hidden behind the podium at Labour's morning briefing. "She's fed up with press conferences," her owner explained.

KEY ARGUMENTS

Labour and the Liberal Democrats sought to capitalise on the Conservatives' growing split over Europe, with Labour claiming that a disunited party was unfit to govern.

However, Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, said no action would be taken against candidates who stepped out of line, echoing comments made by Labour's Robin Cook two days earlier.

"We are not going to conduct a witch hunt - to borrow a phrase from the Labour Party - to the views of individual candidates," he said.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, was attacking the Liberal Democrats. They "are, as they have always been, handmaidens of socialism," he said.

Peter Lilley, the Social Security Secretary, was asked whether he could imagine any circumstances in which he would vote for a single currency. "I have such a fertile imagination I can imagine almost anything," he replied.

Meanwhile Tony Blair, who used to play in a group called the Ugly Rumours, had a pledge for the music industry: "I'll tell you what I'm going to do for British rock music - I'm never going to play in a band again".

GOOD DAY BAD DAY

Yesterday was a good day for SNP leader Alex Salmond, who revealed that his mother was considering voting for him for the first time. Mary Salmond, who has been a Tory supporter for more than half a century, is considering switching because she was disgusted by the massive profits of the bosses of privatised utilities. "As a small gas shareholder, that example of corporate greed was the final straw for her," Mr Salmond said.

Yesterday was a bad day for Douglas Hogg, the Minister of Agriculture, as it looks as if he could be heading for the knackers' yard after the election. John Major met a group of disgruntled farmers at Tavistock cattle market yesterday, who promised their support for the Conservative Party in return for Hogg's head. Tory campaign strategists have so far succeeded in keeping Mr Hogg hidden from view during the campaign.

ONE TO REMEMBER

Labour's best brains have been applying themselves to keeping Britain's best brains from emigrating. They have some catchy names for their ideas: a 'national trust for talent' otherwise known as the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) will promote 'innovation incubators' and turn the 'brain drain' into a 'brain gain'. Gordon Brown, announcing the initiative, said the brains 'are coming home'.

HOGWASH

Local candidates are in luck - they no longer have need of policy papers or party manifestos. They cannot fail to win if armed with crucial data provided by marketing company CCN. Essential information includes the knowledge that the people of High Peak will not ruin their lawns by camping in the garden, the folk of Blackpool drink less bottled water than most, and those in Brentford and Isleworth prefer hard floors to soft carpets.

THE OTHER PARTIES

Actor Leo McKern, otherwise known as Rumpole of the Bailey, is to present the UK Independence Party's election broadcast. He will interview the party's leader, Alan Sked, in what is described as a "humorous performance" to underline their opposition to the European Union.

Dafydd Wigley, the Plaid Cymru leader, rejected suggestions the party was linked to groups who launched a fire-bombing campaign targeted at English-owned property in the late Eighties and early Nineties. He said: "I condemn it without reservation. We made that very clear when the fire- bombing was going on."

MEDIA STAR

Tony Blair made baby-kissing the centre of his campaign yesterday, and chose Crawley as the place to do it. James Austin was the photogenic tot chosen for a close encounter with the Labour leader, and duly had several hundred yards of photographic film expended on his cherubic features.

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