Election '97: Prescott express runs into a spot of bother

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Indy Politics
A presidential-style symbol is to be deployed by John Prescott to stamp his personal appeal on trains, helicopters and his campaign battle bus.

The deputy leader of the Labour Party, who has been assured by Tony Blair that he will be appointed Deputy Prime Minister, if Labour wins the election, is planning to take the stick-on "Prescott Express" seal wherever he goes, in his coast-to-coast tour of Britain.

The Prescott roadshow pulled into Redditch last night for a pop concert to make Labour's campaign go with a swing. Earlier, his campaign bus stopped at Uttoxeter, in the Conservative-held key marginal constituency of Burton where Labour needs a swing of 3.5 per cent to win the seat.

Mr Prescott, who has a campaigning role on the BSE-crisis, criticised the Conservatives' handling of the mad cow disease. He said BSE was an example of one of the Tories' many "policies of failure".

Farmer Ian Holmes, 58, who runs a farm in Shropshire, told Mr Prescott that interest rates were sky high when Labour was last in power and asked why he should trust the party this time. Mr Prescott replied: "We will deliver on health, education and jobs for our young people and I will come back here in five years' time and meet you if we haven't delivered on most things."

Labour's candidate, Janet Dean, a 48-year-old mother-of-two, said many voters had told her they planned to switch from Conservative to Labour on 1 May. Graham Morrell, 34, an unemployed maintenance fitter from Uttoxeter, said: "I voted Tory last time round, but I have had enough. I have four children to look after and I am sick and tired of false promises from the Conservatives. Last time they said they would cut taxes and give everyone a better standard of living. Their claims that there is an economic boom are laughable."

Mr Prescott's battle bus arrived at Birmingham's Victoria Square with D-Ream's hit single "Things Can Only Get Better" booming out.

However, he ran into trouble after a rapturous welcome when he lifted up five-year-old Laura Blakemore.

The girl's father, Steve Blakemore, a 35-year-old toolmaker, from Rushall, Walsall, grabbed her back and later told reporters he was unhappy that Mr Prescott had not asked permission.

"He could have said, 'Do you mind?' I object to him picking up kids willy- nilly."

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