Election '97: THE HURRIED VOTER'S GUIDE

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE CAMPAIGN

Two issues dominated the day's campaigning: the churches' report on unemployment and the future of work, and the future of Neil Hamilton.

The churches denounced what they suggested was the immorality of a society in which a prosperous majority got richer while a poor minority got poorer. They called for higher taxation, a minimum wage, more union rights, reform of the benefits system and more public spending to create jobs.

Labour seized the opportunity to publish a dossier on how Britain was paying the price for a divided Britain, while the Conservatives were forced to respond to the churches' report. The Liberal Democrats launched their policy on crime, promising more Bobbies on the beat and laws to force local authorities to take action on crime prevention.

In Tatton, Neil Hamilton, the Cheshire candidate who is at the centre of cash-for-questions allegations, prepared for his re-adoption meeting, due to take place last night. He and his wife, Christine, launched an ambush on a press conference being held by the BBC's Martin Bell, who is planning to stand as anti-sleaze candidate for the area, backed by the Liberal Democrats and Labour.

Tony Blair and his deputy, John Prescott, were in the capital of Essex man, Basildon, in an attempt to win key marginal voters.

KEY ARGUMENTS

Labour and the Liberal Democrats spent much of the morning arguing that the churches' report supported many of their policies.

Labour could claim the minimum wage, jobs for the unemployed, better education and better conditions of work. The Liberal Democrats added higher taxes to their list.

The Conservatives went on the defensive, saying that Britain was better than most countries at narrowing social divisions and saying unemployment was higher in the rest of Europe.

John Major was also forced to deny allegations that Baroness Thatcher had personally forced him to defend Neil Hamilton.

"I am not having the whole of this general election campaign being hijacked by one constituency. The Conservative constitution is quite clear - selection of candidates is for the local constituency," he said.

Mr Hamilton and Mr Bell had a heated face-to-face confrontation.

"There is no reason for an anti-corruption candidate," the MP said.

Mr Bell told him: "I am going to stand as an independent. I am going to lay out my stall on a lot of issues."

GOOD DAY BAD DAY

The Rt Rev David Sheppard, Bishop of Liverpool, entered the political fray with a media blitz to raise the much-neglected issue of unemployment and working conditions, highlighted in a Church report. Appearing on Channel 4 News, Newsnight and 5 Live. Bishop Sheppard put across the message that the report was not targeted at any party but "the fatalism which wrings the hands and assumes that nothing can be done".

The unfortunate taxi driver who didn't know that Neil Hamilton and Martin Bell were at the centre of the media scrum on Knutsford Heath yesterday morning. Walking past, and being naturally curious, he climbed a photographer's stepladder to get a better view. But he was soon brought down to earth by the angry snapper. The resulting scuffle was nearly as acrimonious as the one going on near by between Hamilton and Bell.

ONE TO REMEMBER

When John Major was asked by Sky's Adam Boulton whether he could promise that he would not increase VAT or expand its base, he replied: "We're a tax-cutting government by instinct. I see nothing in any of the statistics before me to suggest that we would have to change or alter the rate of VAT. I can't know what unexpected events may occur but we have no plans to do so and I can see nothing to suggest that we would have to do so."

HOGWASH

Second World War analogies were the order of the day as Sir James Goldsmith toured Newlyn to launch the Referendum Party campaign. "We are going to have a dictatorship in Europe," warned one of the Euro-sceptic crowd. "A political dictatorship. Hitler would have given his right arm for this." Another said of Sir James: "He's the man of the hour. Just as Mr Churchill rallied us in 1939, so Mr Goldsmith is rallying us against political dictatorship."

THE OTHER PARTIES

"You have been sold down the river," Sir James Goldsmith told disaffected trawlermen at the launch of the Referendum Party's national campaign from a quayside in Newlyn.

"You have been offered in every single manifesto the same thing," he told the assembled fishermen, before hoisting the Referendum Party flag over the harbour.

Meanwhile, in Wales, Dafydd Wigley launched the manifesto of Plaid Cmryu, insisting that higher taxes would be needed to reduce unemployment and pay for better public services.

MEDIA STAR

Christine Hamilton showed her bulldog spirit in front of scores of cameras and microphones, on the heath at Knutsford. Her husband, Neil, and his opponent, Martin Bell, both tried to reason with each other for a short time before Mrs Hamilton had had enough. "Do you accept my husband is innocent?" she demanded of the unhappy war reporter. The question was repeated until Mr Bell replied "I don't know." Earlier in the morning she had told reporters "My husband is not a quitter", coincidentally echoing Richard Nixon's "I am not a quitter".

Comments