Blair, Brown cozy up in TV film
LONDON, England -- UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is seeking to challenge reports that he is at loggerheads with Gordon Brown by starring in a soft-focus TV movie with his chief finance minister.
The pre-election broadcast was an attempt by the ruling Labour party to show Britons that the two leaders can work as a team. Brown is reputedly resentful of Blair for reneging on a promise to hand over power years ago.
Insiders are full of stories of shouting matches and mutual snubs, while aides for both quietly fuel the tension. But with an election due on May 5, that is not a good image to portray.
In the film, produced by Anthony Minghella, the director of Oscar-winning "The English Patient," Blair says: "Whatever the difficulties, whatever the tensions -- and there are a few from time to time -- actually it's a partnership that works."
Meanwhile Tuesday, Blair and Brown criticized the opposition Conservatives' tax and spending plans as a "multi-billion pound black hole."
Blair said the Conservatives were "an absolute mess" and Brown said their plans would put economic stability at risk, threatening interest rate rises.
Labour said the Conservatives planned to spend more, reduce borrowing and cut taxes all at the same time - which was unachievable. (Full story)
Brown described the Tories' manifesto, published Monday, as "a shopping list of promises that do not and cannot add up."
The clash over the economy came as Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy and his wife Sarah celebrated the birth of their first baby, Donald James. (Full story)
The couple said they were "absolutely delighted" and both mother and baby were said to be doing well. It is not yet known when Kennedy will return to the campaign trail.
Also Tuesday, a leading anti-racism campaigner warned political leaders not to inflame tensions during the campaign as immigration emerges as a key issue.
The leader of the opposition Conservative party, Michael Howard, has immigration policy at the heart of his campaign, accusing the government of "pussyfooting" and "failing to get a grip."
But Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality said politicians needed to be "grown up" and "reduce the temperature" following recent reports from around the country of racist violence -- including a spate of attacks on gypsy sites.
"We want politicians to calm down, take a step back and and realize what their words, and the tone of their words, may do to people on the ground," he said in an interview with The Times.
"I'm probably the most worried person in the country at the moment. I can't give you survey evidence but we know what's happening in schools. We know what's happening in factories and so on.
"And I am worried that some of the atmosphere is sour and it is fractious and it is brittle."