Items from 2nd April - 7th May 2001

Mon 7th MayMore anxiety and protests over culling policy. 3 new cases.
Sun 6th MayStories persist that the government is faking the F&M figures. Some vets on the ground claim that separate adjacent cases are often being counted as one, and some infected cases are slaughtered but classfied only as being suspect, and therefore not included in the statistics. The fact that culling seems to be continuing apace while the number of infections is supposed to be so low supports this. There are continuing reports of insensitive treatment of farmers, and one case of the army being called in to stop a TV film crew operating, and threatening a family with house arrest. 4 new cases.

The government persists in its attempts to put pressure on the BBC for more favourable treatment.

The opposition parties remain pretty well invisible, though the Tories continue to be featured in negative stories about how far they are behind in the polls, divisions within the party, and party funding (though Geoffrey Robinson is also still in the headlines).

Sat 5th MayThe Electoral Commission reports that Labour are currently receiving four times as much in donations as the Conservatives. There are accusations that one donation to the Conservatives is illegal.

5 new cases of F&M.

Fri 4th MayBlair announces intention of strengthening asylum laws

10 cases

Thur 3rd MayBlair says F&M is under control. 9 new cases
Wed 2nd MayMORI/Sun poll gives Labour a slightly reduced lead. It also shows that 3 out of 4 people don't want the Euro, and 47% would leave the EU altogether.

9 new cases of F&M.

Uncertainty over whether Blair supports Bush's missile proposal. Background briefings indicate he does, but he is equivocal in the Commons.

Tue 1st MayMore Tories, including Lord Tebbit, join the race row. Given that it seems to be a necessary condition for electoral success that a party has an appearance of relative unity, one wonders what their motives are in joining in at this time. This is a lesson that Labour seem to have learned.

7 new cases F&M.

May Day demonstrations in London contained by the police.

Mon 30th AprRow over retiring MP John Townend's remarks on race. He is forced to apologise. Tse. The possibility of Lord Taylor defecting to Labour is raised, but he denies this.

Nick Brown denies the army caused the outbreak of F&M. 7 new cases.

Foreign Office refused to take part in discussion on The World at One on the future of the EU in the wake of the Schröder speech.

Sun 29th AprGovernment adviser on F&M condemns mass culling policy. One in four farms wrongly diagnosed as infected. There are suggestions that the army was the cause of the original outbreak. More doubts surface over the accuracy/truthfulness of the official figures: The Sunday Telegraph reports that on one day 24 Cumbrian farms had been declared infected, yet MAFF reported only 9 cases for the whole country. [This illustrates the weakness of a news system in which journalists don't regularly collect news themselves but rely larrgely on PR handouts. It has puzzled me as to why there is so little independent information on many issues. One wonders what journalists actually do.] There are also allegations that MAFF is refusing to accept the judgement of vets that an animal is infected, in order to keep the figures down as we approach the date for calling a June election. 3 new cases.

2 million people are waiting to see a hospital consultant (including this writer).

Rallings and Thrasher study shows Tories are ahead in terms of votes cast in local elections. They predict a turnout below 70%.

Row over Tory amendments to tax legislation relating to spread betting (in January the Conservative Party received the largest ever donation from the chairman of a betting firm).

Sat 28th Apr13 new cases.
Fri 27th AprBoth Blair and Hague have poorer public images than the two main party leaders before the three previous general elections, a MORI/Times poll shows.

13 new cases.

Thur 26th AprRow over appointment of more 'Great and Good' to House of Lords

MORI poll gives Labour 20% lead. Robert Worcester predicts a Labour majority of between 100 and 120 seats in this election and a further win in the election after.

Row over government spending £63million of public mo money on pre-election advertising. In opposition Tony Blair campaigned against such government advertising.

MAFF relaxes slaughter policy on cattle, vets will now have discretion, following outcry over calf that survived cull and also threat of legal action from the farmer. Downing St claims credit for saving calf, while the Minister denies the calf had any connection with the change of policy. It is suggested that more animals have actually been slaughtered than are reflected in the official figures. 3 new cases.

Government proposes scheme to set up trust funds for all children to provide money by age 18.

Wed 25th AprBlair denies reports that the future of MAFF is under consideration. 18 new cases.

He also tacitlytly admits that taxes have risen.

Tue 24th AprICM poll gives Labour 14% lead

It is reported that a review of local government finance after the election will eliminate Scottish and Welsh subsidies. It is also admitted that Labour spent less per year on infrastructure renewal than the Tories did in their final year in office.

More fuel demonstrations are expected.

Concern continues about pollution from burning carcasses. Survey shows 40% want vaccination to replace culling on uninfected farms, but ministers appear to have abandoned the idea of vaccination. 13 new cases.

There are concncerns about a downturn in the economy. The government declines to make a statement to Parliament on the Motorola closure decision.

Mon 23rd Apr13 new cases.
Sun 22nd AprRace row starts to rebound on Labour as it becomes clear that the party is fielding fewer black and asian candidates than in the 1980s; a party spokesman refuses to confirm that candidates not signing the CRE compact will be disciplined. Former commissioner with the CRE claims the organisation colluded with Labour to raise the race issue, and said it had become a political arm of the Labour Party. Hague claims he did not expect all candidates to sign the CRE compact. Police confirm that the incidence of racially motivated incidents increases after politicians make speeches on race or asylum seekers. The mother of Stephen Lawrence says that Robin Cook's comments were not constructive

Foot & mouth disease appears to have spread to the wild deer population. Opposition to mass slaughter increases. 9 new cases.

Sat 21st AprThe Times reveals serious problems with electoral registration procedures. They appear to be so serious that there can be no confidence in the result in any really marginal constituency.

14 new F&M cases.

Fri 20th AprRow over CRE compact. Unease about the CRE approach grows. Portillo refuses to sign.

15 new F&M cases. MAFF slaughters flock of 500 sheep by mistake.

Thur 19th AprGovernment Chief Scientist says the epidemic is fully "under control". He is using the phrase in a sense different from that of the Minister's a few weeks ago. 15 new cases. Again MAFF declines to take part in a Channel 4 News discussion; Ch 4 is also refused access to a controversial burial site in Wales.

Robin Cook raises the race issue by accusing William Hague of supporting racists. The party leaders have, according to the CRE, committed themselves to take action against any of their own candidates or campaigners who do or say anything likely to stir up racial prejudice. Three Tory MPs have refused to sign the CRE's election compact. Several members of the Cabinet have not yet signed.

Wed 18th AprGovernment is actively considering vaccination programme, but NFU is opposed. Government refuses to take part in a discussion about vaccination on Newsnight. 19 new cases.

Fuel prices rise, with further rises expected.

Tues 17th Apr22 new cases
Mon 16th Apr21 new cases
Sun 15th AprSome ministers are reported as favouring an election on May 24th

Health concerns are voiced by the waste industry about the disposaposal of carcasses in landfill sites. 14 new cases. There is now talk of vaccination.

The BBC is reported to be under pressure from Labour to conform to the latter's view of what is newsworthy.

Institute for Fiscal Studies says that the Police have received smaller increases in spending under Labour than under the previous Conservative government.

Polling data indicates that a third of students will not bother to vote.

Sat 14th AprMAFF revises its website policy and admits that the government is not meeting its slaughter and disposal targets. 17 new cases.
Fri 13th AprOpposition accuses MAFF of suppressing figures on the number of animals awaiting slaughter. MAFF reported as saying it is unimportant since the disease has peaked. Independent experts at ICL say culling needs to be done more quickly. 30 new cases
Thur 12th AprMAFF eventually posts 31 cases for yesterday (plus 3 added later). 24 today.

Anne Widdecombe makes clear that policy towards asylum-seekers will be an issue in the campaign.

Tony Blair, speaking to teachers, makes a commitment that hat an increased percentage of national income will be spent on education if he is re-elected.

Wed 11th AprF&M even more confused. After a day of 41 new cases, the Chief Sef Scientist is reported as saying there are signs that the disease is levelling off. The MAFF website, which has been reporting figures from 19.00 one day to 19.00 the next, has (at 20.53) only an update timed at 14.30 saying there are 14 new cases. Hmmmmnnn.

The Treasury refuses to put up a spokesman for a Newsnight discussion about business investment. If the government persists in its strategy of avoiding public debate of political issues, this campaign will be very boring indeed.

Tue 10th AprInformation on F&M is still confused. Some sources reported 18 cases for yesterday, MAFF website said 29. 4141 new cases today. The government is blaming farmers for some of the spread of the disease. It also refused, again, to put a spokesman on Channel 4 News, this time to discuss their report that the help for small businesses promised by Michael Meacher would not be forthcoming.

The Wessex story rumbles on, along with discussions about the role of the royal family.

Although not directly relevant to the campaign, it is interesting to note that the halting of the trial of the Leeds footballers, because of a Sunday Mirror article that was ruled to be potentially prejudicial, represents another useful diversion for the government in this difficult pre-campaign period.

Mon 9th AprOver the weekend, headlines were dominated by stories about the Countess of Wessex in which she was dishonestly encouraged to reveal information she would otherwise have kept to herself. Some Labour MPs try to take advantage of this piece of 'luck' by calling for a review of the role of the royal family.

The report of one Sunday newspaper, that samples of F&M were stolen from Porton Down just before the outbreak of the disease seems not to have been taken up by other newspapers - most seem to have accepted the explanation that meat illegally imported by the Chinese community was to blame. Not surprisingly, this has given rise to protests and demonstrations by the Chinese. 29 new cases.

Animal welfare groupss are reported to be considering campaigning against Labour MPs who supported fox-hunting.

The Conservative and Liberal Democratic Parties are not getting much press coverage at the moment.

Sun 8th Apr29 new F&M cases
Fri 6th April26 new F&M cases
Thur 5th AprilBank rate down 0.25%

MAFF continues to withhold F&M statistics. 38 new cases. It is reported that an order to give the army operational control was issued, but then withdrawn when Hague called for army control.

Wed 4th AprilNews bulletins suddenly start to report that the F&M outbreak will be under control bol by June 7th

23 new confirmed cases of F&M

Tue 3rd AprilHague calls for the army to assume operational control of the culling of animals. The government gets an army commander to give its answer.

Channel 4 News is unable to get any government spokesperson to appear on its programme to discuss foot and mouth.

The suggestion of Michael Meacher (Environment Minister) that there will be a wide-ranging foot-and-mouth inquiry is not supported by Downing Street.

48 new confirmed cases of F&M

Mon 2nd AprilTony Blair announces that, because of the f the foot and mouth epidemic, the local elections would be postponed until June 7th. It seems that this is also the likely General Election date.

MAFF removes some of the key statistics about its progress in dealing with the diseasese from its website.

33 new confirmed cases of F&M

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