Memorable moments from Britain's poll campaign

5th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

A cartoon pig, an Elvis impersonator, and a granny from Rochdale -- Britain's leaders tried to focus on the big issues, but the 2010 election campaign may be remembered for other, less scripted moments.

- Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour won top prize for most kitsch manifesto cover, which showed a family looking out over bright green fields towards a shining sun. Newspapers compared it to Soviet propaganda posters.

- "Cleggmania" -- Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg became an overnight star after the first of three live TV debates, triggering a spectacular surge in his party's support. By the third debate some had become jaded with his "There they go again" routine about the other two leaders.

- A colourful cartoon character, Peppa Pig, pulled out of a Labour campaign event after its licence-holder said she should avoid any "controversy or misunderstanding". Veteran Labour spinmeister Peter Mandelson said: "I think this is very unfortunate... It's all far too political for me to understand. Obviously, I feel intensely pig sick about it."

- Brown was joined by an Elvis Presley impersonator during an appearance in Corby, central England at which the British premier declared he was "upping the tempo" of the campaign. The stunt, reportedly the idea of former Labour spin doctor Alaistair Campbell, was widely ridiculed.

- "Bigotgate" -- the gaffe that dominated the last week of the campaign. The prime minister was caught on a stray microphone dismissing lifelong Labour voter Gillian Duffy as a "bigoted woman" after she questioned him about immigration. He apologised in person in a 40-minute visit to her modest terraced home, but failed to persuade her to pose for a public handshake. His bizarre smile as he admitted to being a "penitent sinner" was much noted.

- The blunder triggered some of the best headlines of the campaign: the Tory-backing Sun tabloid had "Brown toast" -- a reference to the fact that Duffy was out buying bread when she bumped into Brown -- followed a day later by "Scrambled Clegg on toast," after Clegg was wrongfooted during a TV debate.

- Former Labour premier Tony Blair returned, looking dazzlingly tanned and energetic, to help out his old friend-turned-rival in the final push for votes. Conservative leader David Cameron said his appearance would be "good for sales of Tango," an orange flavoured drink. "It is nice to see him making a speech that no one is paying for," he added.

- Frocks and shoes took on a new importance as the party leaders' wives joined the campaign trail. Sarah Brown put in the most hours and apologised on behalf of her husband after "bigotgate". Glamorous Samantha Cameron, known as "Sam Cam", was declared by the Tory leader to be his "secret weapon". And Miriam Gonzales appeared occasionally and discretely by Clegg's side.

- "I Agree With Nick" became a cult phrase after being uttered seven times by Brown in the first television debate as he courted the Lib Dems. It was swiftly seen on T-shirts and mugs around the country.

- The sex question: all three party leaders were asked by The Guardian in a questionnaire how often they had sex. "Those who count clearly aren't enjoying it enough," said Clegg, who earned himself the nickname "Nick Clegg-over" after saying in a 2008 interview that he had slept with "no more than 30" women. The other two brushed the question aside.

- No British poll campaign would be complete without the eccentric candidates, including the long-standing Official Monster Raving Loony Party -- and a flatulent baked bean superhero Captain Beany. "The wind of change is coming, I can smell it in the air." the lurid orange candidate told AFP at his campaign headquarters, the Red Lion pub in Port Talbot, Wales.

© 2010 AFP

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