CAMPAIGNS: Judge and Jury; Tories are all dressed up and nowhere to go but out

George Pitcher, managing director of communications consultancy Luther Pendragon and former industrial editor of the Observer, takes the Tories to task for focusing on style rather than content

George Pitcher, managing director of communications consultancy Luther

Pendragon and former industrial editor of the Observer, takes the Tories

to task for focusing on style rather than content



The right wing of the Conservative Party gathered at a Heathrow hotel

last weekend in order to be assessed and advised by ‘image consultant’

Mary Spillane.



Ms Spillane runs a consultancy called Colour Me Beautiful, though Colour

Me Electable must have been the brief at Heathrow. The course promised

40 members of Conservative Way Forward (CWF) the opportunity to learn

how to look like ‘happy, normal people’.



What interests me here is the manner in which CWF, headed by the urbane

and dyed-in-the-flesh Lord Parkinson, flagged the event in the press

last week.



One would have thought that the need to attend a style-counselling

session would be a cause for concealment and a source of embarrassment,

like being caught by an acquaintance at the toupee counter.



But, of course, part of the exercise is to let the electorate know that

right-wing Conservatives are worried about their image and that we might

not like them.



The story was duly broken in the Financial Times on Tuesday under the

headline ‘Tory right wing told to burn their blazers’. This might have

been perceived as a one-off colour story if it hadn’t reappeared as the

Times’ front-page hamper, no less, on Saturday under the headline ‘Tory

high-flyers to get dressed down on dressing up’.



This was clearly a story that was being pushed. You might say that it

was a case of ‘string it out - it’s the only language these people

understand’.



The trouble with this kind of exercise - blaming the packaging, rather

than its contents - is that it can backfire.



One candidate was quoted as saying that ‘it is very difficult to get the

balance right between looking like a stuffed shirt and a trainspotter or

nightclubber’, thereby confirming that today’s Conservative Party is

comprised entirely of stuffed shirts and trainspotters who are simply

trying to look like they’re not.



So, the charge is that CWF’s efforts to present the Tory right as

cuddly, saloon-bar blokes in fact drew attention to a party bereft of

direction and so vacant of political substance that its best idea is to

change its wardrobe.



Guilty. String ’em up - it’s the only language they understand.



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