Labour finds window of opportunity

JOHN RENTOUL

Political Correspondent

Labour scooped a record-breaking audience for a party political broadcast last night, as the nation tuned in for the news before the royal interview, and found itself watching "On The Slide" instead.

The five-minute black-and-white film, made by Howard Guard, attacked the Conservatives' record and set out the shadow Chancellor Gordon Brown's plans for "fair taxes".

The timing of yesterday's broadcast was agreed two months ago, long before the Princess of Wales agreed to give her interview to Panorama. By chance, it was the first time a broadcast has been screened on a Monday outside an election campaign, because there is live football on television tonight, tomorrow and Thursday nights, and Labour insisted on a broadcast the week before the Budget. David Hill, the party's chief spokesman, said it was the party's sixth broadcast this year. The Tories have only used two of their permitted six. "They neither feel they have a message worth putting across, nor do they have any coherent line of attack against us," he said.

A Tory party spokesman said: "All the research indicates that PPBs only have any real impact in the run-up to an election. We are quite content for Labour to continue to waste resources on the wrong kind of advertising at the wrong time of year."

Record power surges since 1970

2,800 mega-watts

4 July 1990: World Cup semi-final, England v Germany.

2,200 mega-watts

April 1991: Darling Buds of May.

May 1991: Darling Buds of May.

11 April 1994: Coronation Street and EastEnders ran head to head and finished at the same time. 16.09 million viewers for EastEnders.

8 May 1985: Dallas and This Is Your Life ended at the same time.

16 January 1984: The Thornbirds.

1,900 mega-watts

5 April 1994: EastEnders.18.20 million viewers.

1,800 mega-watts

29 July 1981: Diana and Charles's wedding.

9 April 1992: EastEnders. 18.57 million viewers.

3 September 1992: EastEnders.19.26 million viewers.

700 mega-watts

29th June 1994: Prince Charles's Dimbleby interview.

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