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Blair pins election hopes at the gate

Bill Clinton won his second term targeting "soccer moms". Tony Blair hopes "school-gate mums" will give him a third term.

Not only were mothers bombarded with "family matters" leaflets this week, they were also promised a parent helpline, a science lab in every school and access to a school nurse for every pupil.

Some even encountered the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown double-act at their school gates, as part of Labour's education day on Wednesday.

But one mum went off-message. Cherie Blair, visiting an Edgbaston infants'

school, confessed "seriously considering" a packed lunch for her son Leo, as his school dinners were "not terrific".

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly, admitted taking nothing for granted when she was interviewed at local school gates by Radio 4's Today programme in her Bolton West constituency, with Michael Howard in town trying to slash her 5,518 majority.

But ITV News revealed her Tory shadow, Tim Collins, with a 3,417 majority, was a target for a Lib Dem "decapitation strategy", aimed at unseating top Tories.

Pam Young, head of Hotham primary in Putney, was surprised to see Ken Livingstone, the London mayor, outside her gates.

"We have been told we are not allowed politicians on our site," she said.

Others were more welcoming. Monica Cross, head of Highlands school, north London, had a visit from local MP and school standards minister Stephen Twigg on Monday. She now plans to invite other politicians, claiming it is useful for citizenship lessons.

Some of the pupils appeared sceptical, one asking: "Politicians don't stick to their promises, so what makes you any different?"

But one impressed 14-year-old said he would be persuading his parents to vote Labour.

Tory leader Michael Howard landed in hot water for sending his son to Eton rather than his local comprehensive, when the Tories held their education day.

Then it emerged that a teacher speaking in an election broadcast about bad behaviour had retired a decade ago. Joe Webster, a Tory councillor in Havering, east London, appeared in the film stacking chairs in what was supposed to be a classroom. "I will choose the Conservative party so I can get on with teaching, rather than simply trying to keep order," he said.

The Lib Dems were expected to focus on their higher-education policies, which include abolishing tuition fees.

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