Nick Jones

Campaign 2001 Author Nicholas Jones. Published by Politico's Publishing 2001, ISBN 1 902301 78 1

 

Campaign 2001 offers a first hand account of the 2001 general election which produced a kaleidoscope of political images. Pride of place goes to the Prescott punch, a straight left jab to the chin of an egg-throwing protestor which proved the most startling image of the whole campaign. But there were plenty of other enduring memories: the curious disappearance of the shadow Treasury spokesman Oliver Letwin, the mystery of Shaun Woodward's butler, Sharron Storer buttonholing Tony Blair about the inadequacies of the NHS, Baroness Thatcher in The Mummy Returns.  For all the political knockabout, the campaign brought about very little change: Tony Blair returned to Downing Street with another landslide, while the Tories managed just one more seat than in the catastrophic 1997 vote, then settled down into an apparently interminable leadeship struggle.  Veteran BBC political correspondent Nicholas Jones, an acclaimed chronicler of the stormy relationship between politicians and the press, witnessed the whole election at close quarters, and his campaign diary forms the latest of his compelling dispatches from the front line of British politics.

In his introduction to Campaign 2001, Jones explains why he found the 2001 campaign like no other he had previously reported: "On the one hand the Labour victory seemed all but certain; on the other hand there were unsettling factors suggesting an unpredictable outcome. Because of a crippling outbreak of foot and mouth disease that had beset the country since February, Tony Blair had to disappoint the Labour Party and abandon his preferred polling day of Thursday 3 May.  When he postponed the election until Thursday 7 June, many of his MPs feared that victory was about to repeat itself and that Blair had taken a step which could prove as dangerous as the ill-fated decision of Labour's last Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan, who delayed polling day until May 1979 and then lost to Margaret Thatcher.