UK Politics

General election cock-ups and confrontations

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In politics, especially if you're a party leader, there's nothing better than getting out of the stuffy corridors of the Westminster bubble and reinvigorating democracy by being real and meeting real people - but it can go SO wrong.

In this interactive video, Giles Dilnot from BBC2's Daily Politics looks through the archives of general election cock-ups and confrontations.

If you are unable to watch the interactive video, you can follow the links below to other content.


John Major, prime minister in 1992, found a soapbox rather handy when he was confronted by protesters on the campaign trail in Luton. You can view a report on the fracas by veteran BBC reporter John Simpson.

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Media captionJohn Simpson report from the 1992 election

And there's some pretty compelling footage of Margaret Thatcher being challenged by a caller to BBC programme Nationwide in the run up to the 1983 election. Again you can click on the archive to see the full clip and decide who you think won the passionate exchange of views.

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Media captionNationwide report from 1983

And who can forget Prescott's famous punch? Prime minister at the time, Tony Blair, eggscused it as "John... being John" and career-wise it wasn't a knockout blow.

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Media captionPrescott's Punch

On the same day as Two Jab's was swinging the fists during the 2001 election campaign, Tony Blair got a rough ride from Sharon Storer. She was unhappy about Labour's record on the NHS. It ripped away a myth of political spin, and showed even the most stage managed, choreographed campaigns can stumble over the real and unexpected. Click the video below to view the emotional confrontation.

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Media captionSharon Storer confronts Tony Blair

Gordon Brown probably wishes he'd never met Gillian Duffy but he did and it may have cost him the 2010 election. What's STILL odd (AND instructive) is it's NOT because their meeting but "what happened next". Click to see BBC Political Editor, Nick Robinson's account of that day.

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Media captionGordon Brown meets Gillian Duffy

Whilst the media are all busy trying to get politicians into a studio to debate, some just go ahead and do it all themselves. Click below, for some classic white suit action from the 1997 election as Neil Hamilton and former BBC journalist Martin Bell come face to face.

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Media captionFight for Tatton in 1997

It's not just real people that can wobble a politician who should be on their game. As you can see in this classic Andrew Marr report, Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy stumbled over his answers to reporters during a 2005 morning press conference.

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Media captionLiberal Democrat 2005 manifesto launch

Then of course there's over-confidence - or appearing over-confident. Sometimes that will be enough to turn a voter off even at the last hurdle. Just days before voting in 1992, Labour thought it had things sewn-up - leading to a spectacular piece of hubris from a party leader.

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Media captionNeil Kinnock's Sheffield rally in 1992

Comedian Kenny Everett launched some interesting policy ideas at a Conservative youth conference just before the 1983 election. The thing is nobody knew if he meant it, or those applauding realised it was a joke.

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Media captionKenny Everett appears at a 1983 Conservative Conference.

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