Labour takes to beaches to rock the vote

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The Independent Online
John Prescott, the deputy Labour leader, launched a summer holiday campaign against "Tory lies" yesterday, claiming to have learnt the lesson of allowing Conservative propaganda to go unchallenged in the 1992 election campaign.

To the refrain of "Sweet- talking lies" by the Chiffons and "Unbelievable" by EMF, Mr Prescott pledged at a Westminster news conference to patrol the beaches bothering holiday-makers: "I'll be checking whether they're reading Jeffrey Archer or our pledge card," he said.

Party supporters from Blackpool to Benidorm are being issued with posters, beach hats, mini frisbees, plastic sunglasses and cards bearing Labour's five early pledges, and sticks of rock with the words "TORY LIES" running through them.

The Benidorm edition of yesterday's Sun (225 pesetas, "now printed in Spain and the Canaries") carried a full-page Labour advertisement headed: "Do you speak Tory?" It listed nine "useful translations for those travelling to the United Kingdom" of "Tory phrases", including "No tax increases", which Labour says means "22 new taxes since 1992".

The jocular style belies Labour alarm at opinion research suggesting that the Tory campaign, "New Labour New Danger", was hitting home. Yesterday's news conference was attended by Chris Powell, head of the BMP advertising agency. He is believed to be behind Labour's riposte, "Same old Tories. Same old lies".

A MORI poll yesterday showed the Tories had retaken the lead as the best party on "law and order" and (by one point) "managing the economy" - although Labour still leads on eight of the top 10 issues.

Frank Dobson, Labour's environment spokesman, said the party had failed to respond effectively to Saatchi & Saatchi's campaign in the run-up to the 1992 election, warning of a Labour "tax bombshell". He said: "We thought their lying was so blatant we could ignore it. We believed the news media and the public, would recognise that the Tories were lying about Labour's plans."

Charles Hendry, Tory party vice-chairman, dismissed the pounds 500,000 campaign: "People go to Spain for sun, sea and sangria, not socialism."

The Tories have dropped a plan to place posters at holiday airports reminding people they are returning to a country with one of the lowest unemployment levels, and enjoying low mortgage and interest rates.

Even on the issues contested by Labour's campaign, the facts of the argument were hardly at the centre of the debate. Labour's poster lists five "Tory lies": that Labour will be soft on criminals, will increase taxes, put up interest rates and mortgages, give up the national veto in Europe and that the minimum wage will cost jobs.

But the "truth" about Labour policy is generally unspecific: that Labour will "seek tough sentences for violent crimes and the swift punishment of persistent young offenders", will "aim to reduce taxes for ordinary people", will "keep interest rates and inflation as low as possible" and will "keep the veto". The poster also says: "New Labour will set a realistic minimum wage that protects jobs, having consulted with businesses and employees".

Summertime blues

Just when you thought it was safe ... or, why politicians can never take a break:

August 1990: Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait

August 1991: Coup attempt against Mikhail Gorbachev

August 1992: Sterling crisis forced John Major to return early from Spanish holiday

August 1993: Tory turmoil after leak of Prime Minister's comments about "bastards"

August 1994: IRA ceasefire

August 1995: Tony Blair hit by first wave of real dissent, including Roy Hattersley accusing him of ignoring the poor