LABOUR IN BLACKPOOL: Blair beats windy trap for grand air tour

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The Independent Online
The Labour leader, Tony Blair, left Blackpool yesterday for a helicopter tour of the constituencies the party needs to win for an election victory. He covered territory across England, from Bury, in Lancashire, to the home of Essex man in Harlow.

It was also something of a procession through the ages. There were primary school children in Bury; college students in Telford, Shropshire; there was a veteran, former Labour ward secretary in a wheelchair in Northampton's shopping centre, and there was a range of Labour supporters in Harlow,from one newborn baby to long-suffering party supporters.

But it had all nearly begun in tears. Mr Blair's press officer, Hilary Coffman, had gone to inspect the helipad on the North Pier where the tour was set to begin, only to see waves leaping skywards and gusts of wind fit to blow a Labour leader horizontal.

The image of Mr Blair being engulfed in grey sea, prompting yet another Labour leadership election, was enough for Special Branch to advise a rethink. So instead, Mr Blair was driven off to Blackpool Airport - then swooping up and over the town, leaving the rain behind, he was flown into beautiful sunshine and over some of England's most glorious countryside in public relations safety.