Election 2010: PRWeek Election Panel

Leading comms experts, with different allegiances, give their verdict so far.

PAUL RICHARDS - Labour

None of the best brains in politics can tell me why an Elvis impersonator joined the Prime Minister in Corby. If Labour was ten points ahead instead of in third place, you might excuse some levity. Elvis appeared after Labour complaints that the media were focusing on trivia, and then Peppa Pig was pulled out of a Labour event on Wednesday.

This week, Labour 'upped its game' after criticism that Brown's stage-managed events were too much like visits by Princess Anne. In Asda, Weymouth, a shopper told Sarah Brown that her husband looked unwell. He looked healthier at the Royal College of Nursing conference, after his standing ovation.

No ovations on the BBC debate, of course, just the harsh judgement of millions. Team Brown makes a virtue out of being all about substance, not PR.

The last leader to reject PR in favour of substance was Michael Foot. His ratings matched Labour's this week. Labour's foot soldiers are fighting to win and those talking up coalitions need to hold their nerve.

Richards formerly advised cabinet ministers Patricia Hewitt and Hazel Blears, and is the author of How to Win an Election. He writes a weekly column for Progress

TIM COLLINS - Conservatives

We have not seen such a genuinely three-cornered fight in a British general election since the 1920s. There are no rules and no certainties. Any of the three leaders could see their party in power after 6 May - or excluded semi-permanently.

David Cameron has sought to grab back the mantle he once claimed effortlessly - the agent of change, the force of hope, the face of the future. He is at his best when his back is against the wall. Cameron needs to make it clear that any government involving Labour ministers would not provide the change people want. Then he needs to focus on the biggest single issue - not broken Britain, but broke Britain.

The longest period of left-wing government in British history has produced the biggest debt in British history - and more of the same will just mean more debt and more economic decline. Voters need to be persuaded to hold one simple belief: whether they like the Tories or not, they simply cannot afford anything other than a Conservative government.

Bell Pottinger Public Affairs MD Collins is a former Conservative Party comms director and has served in the shadow cabinet

IAN WRIGHT - Liberal Democrats

By a stretch, we have just had the most remarkable media week for the third party since 1981. As last week's column was appearing, the four most pro-Tory newspapers had decided to, er, scrutinise Nick Clegg. His expenses, freeloading from Europe, a Nazi slur and a an attempt to position him as defeatist on Afghanistan and Trident were the stories chosen. Quite what this Attack Thursday was supposed to achieve is not clear, but if it was designed to erode trust in the Lib Dem Leader, it failed.

Now it is showdown time. The third debate should have welcomed back most of the six million viewers who do not have Sky or BBC News and therefore missed last week's debate. If the BBC's 15 million prediction is to be believed, it will have added another three or four million new viewers to the whole event.

It is clear that those who hear Clegg for the first time direct are disproportionately attracted to him. But it will demand that his performance is even better than it has been so far. Three wins is a lot to ask for.

Wright has advised Liberal Democrat leaders Paddy Ashdown, Menzies Campbell and Nick Clegg. He now works in corporate comms.

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