Saturday 24 June 2017

Hostilities begin in battleground Britain

Gordon Brown and wife Sarah arrive in Rochester, Kent
Gordon Brown and wife Sarah arrive in Rochester, Kent
David Cameron and his wife Samantha walk in central London

Roland Watson, Francis Elliott and Sam Coates

GORDON Brown and David Cameron raced across battleground Britain yesterday revealing starkly differing campaign styles at the opening of election hostilities.

As they crossed through the suburbs and old industrial fringes that will decide the 2010 election, the prime minister made a direct appeal to middle-class voters while Mr Cameron asked people to vote for "hope, optimism, change".

Mr Cameron headed to the middle of the country -- Yorkshire and the Midlands, home to the largest concentration of marginal seats -- while Mr Brown moved through a string of marginals in Kent, describing himself as a man from an "ordinary family" and an "ordinary town".

With the financial gulf between the parties never wider, the leaders adopted made-to-measure travel arrangements. Mr Brown sat in standard class on a train to Kent, where he visited a supermarket canteen and met voters for tea and cakes. Mr Cameron took to the skies in an executive jet. He aims to log thousands of miles of energetic travel in the next four weeks.

Spending

The modes of transport revealed the disparity in spending power -- Labour is already halfway through its £8m (€9.1m) war chest, while the Tories are expected to spend up to the allowed election limit of £18.9m (€21.5m).

While Mr Brown lined up with his cabinet on the banks of the Thames, Mr Cameron appeared solo and presented himself as an insurgent, angrily waving his finger at the House of Commons as he vowed to "make people feel proud again of that building over there".

Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said that his party offered Britain "real change". Speaking at the party's headquarters before hitting the campaign trail, he told workers that the poll would be "a huge, huge election".

He added: "This isn't the old politics of a two-horse race between Labour and the Conservative Party. The real choice is between the old politics of Labour and Conservatives and something different, something new and that is what we offer."

Mr Brown and Mr Cameron will clash in the Commons today in the last prime minister's questions of this Parliament.

Mr Brown will then seek to meet voter disillusionment with politicians with a series of proposals to reform the political process, such as creating a "democracy day" when a re-elected Labour government would hold referendums on a fully elected House of Lords and a proportional system of voting for the House of Commons.

Mr Brown and Mr Cameron sought to set the terms of debate and place their personal imprints on the campaign. Mr Cameron was out of the blocks first, pre-empting Mr Brown's confirmation that he was going to the country on May 6.

Addressing party supporters and candidates on the south of the Thames across from the Houses of Parliament, Mr Cameron asked people to vote for "hope, optimism, change". He opened his remarks by playing what his strategists believe to be his strongest card: "You don't have to put up with another five years of Gordon Brown."

Mr Brown emerged from Downing Street to be flanked -- unusually for an election announcement -- by his cabinet. "I am not a team of one, but one of a team," he said, seeking to deflect the spotlight from himself and raise questions about the calibre of the shadow cabinet. (© The Times, London)

Irish Independent

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