A change for the better

LABOUR has scrapped its battle bus for the General Election campaign but has brought back its old warhorse Alastair Campbell to co-ordinate media strategy as Tony Blair bids to finally finish off the Conservatives.

LABOUR has scrapped its battle bus for the General Election campaign but has brought back its old warhorse Alastair Campbell to co-ordinate media strategy as Tony Blair bids to finally finish off the Conservatives.

I well remember the Prime Minister's party conference speech of a few years back when he pledged to kill off "the forces of conservatism" which he claimed were holding back the country. The text of the speech used a lower case "c" but most newspapers interpreted as Conservatism.

I'm mot sure Labour really needs Alastair Campbell – the Tories themselves seem well equipped to take their party into obscurity by constant bickering, policy changes, and a lack of any sense of direction.

Labour's decision to do away with centralised media conferences during the election campaign. immediately followed by leading members heading out into the sticks to meet and greet voters has caught the Tories totally flat-footed.


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Central Office, recently relocated to Victoria Street opposite New Scotland Yard, has a fully equipped 21st century technological media centre. But it could stand empty for much of the campaign if the Conservatives are forced to abandon daily London media briefings because most journalists are out on the road at Labour's regional press conference.

Labour's approach makes total sense. John Major did the same in 1992 and pulled off a surprise election victory, while President George W. Bush won re-election last month with a marathon travelling campaign.

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I fully expect to see Labour's top performers such as Dr John Reid, Charles Clarke, Gordon Brown, John Prescott and the Prime Minister himself daily Press conferences in not only in Nottingham, Aberdeen, Cardiff, Liverpool, Plymouth and Leeds but also in some of the key battlegrounds such as Great Yarmouth, Monmouth, Watford and Dumfries.

And why not? It gives the local media, without lobby-based access to the great and the good, a chance to be involved. They won't ask the awkward questions of the London hacks and the positive publicity generated for Labour will be incalculable.

LAST week, Ipswich's new Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration showed admirable common sense in deciding to freeze pensioners' bus fares at 40p. Indeed, it seemed utter madness to even float the possibility of increasing such fares in the first place.

As I've written before, no pensioner should have to pay any bus anywhere. Why should they be treated any different to London, where pensioners living in the capital can board a bus or underground train for nothing.

Instead of Labour politicians in Ipswich crowing at their perceived success in stopping the fares increase, they should be lobbying their own Government to introduce a nationwide free concessionary scheme for all pensioners, the disabled and veterans

A peaceful and prosperous New Year to you all.

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