Election Diary

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Indy Politics

Gaffe of the day

Gaffe of the day

Tony Colman, Labour MP for Putney, would be advised to pay closer attention. He has mistaken his Tory opponent, who is within a hair's breadth of taking his seat, for a swing voter. Justine Greening, 36, has received a string of letters from Mr Colman, asking for her support. The latest offers a lift to the polling station.

Revelation of the Day

Theresa May, the Tory frontbencher, revealed yesterday she once canvassed a naked man. She found the nudist in his garden and "spent a stimulating five minutes" discussing the NHS.

Control freaks of the day

The Liberal Democrats' obsessive loyalty to their campaign "grid" may be faintly reminiscent of the first days of New Labour. But yesterday there were signs they were becoming more human after they paraded Greg Dyke at 8.30am instead of the usual obsessively early 7.30am. But the party leader, Charles Kennedy, whose aides have insisted that he starts the day at 6am, was not permitted a bank holiday lie-in.

Forward planner of the day

One frontbench Tory is so certain of the election result he has already committed himself to going sailing this weekend and booked a crew. Surely he should be awaiting a call from Prime Minister Howard?

Old quote of the day

"People don't want a date with destiny. Most just want the date with the dentist." Michael Howard, repeating a line from his autumn conference.

Bad day

Tony Blair took defensive action after finding himself trumped in the bank holiday fashion stakes yesterday by Mr Howard. Spectators observed the Prime Minister was wearing a tie at the beginning of a press conference in a south London school. By the time he emerged from the school, the tie had gone. Meanwhile Mr Howard was filmed pounding the streets, tieless, in a fetching pink shirt.

Omission of the day

Mr Kennedy's choice of retiring MPs for peerages has prompted some colleagues to remark that he is a "forgiving" character. Among them is Jenny Tonge, who sympathised with Palestinian suicide bombers and made unhelpful remarks about his health. But one of his consistently loyal MPs, Richard Allan, retiring as MP for Sheffield Hallam, is not on the list.

Great British elections: 1979

With 1906 and 1945, this was the third great "watershed" election of the 20th century. Vague and light on commitments as the Conservative manifesto was, few doubted the arrival of Margaret Thatcher was anything other than a radical step back from the post-war consensus. Her rhetoric, if not her policy proposals, since she became leader in 1975 made clear that she was having no truck with the old corporatist ways of incomes policy and appeasing the unions. She was to stand up to the Soviet Union, too. For most of her time as leader of the Opposition, Labour had no overall majority and had to rely on the Liberals and other minority parties for its survival. Indeed, it was the first government in more than 50 years to lose a vote of confidence in the Commons, an event that was to precipitate the fall of James Callaghan's administration. Callaghan had resisted the temptation to capitalise on a gently improving economic outlook and poll ratings in the autumn of 1978, and soldiered through the "winter of discontent". The government seemed powerless to act in the face of widespread strikes, robbingLabour of its claim that it was the only party able to deal with the unions.Eighteen years of Conservative rule lay ahead.

Sean O'Grady

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