OPINION: Public evidence of the love Labour’s lost

For much of the last three years I have had one recurring nightmare. It is that the PR industry would come to regard New Labour’s way of doing our business not only as fashionable, but as the norm. I have taken every opportunity to warn against what I believed to be dangerous doctrine.

For much of the last three years I have had one recurring

nightmare. It is that the PR industry would come to regard New Labour’s

way of doing our business not only as fashionable, but as the norm. I

have taken every opportunity to warn against what I believed to be

dangerous doctrine.



And then, come the millennium, I began to have fewer disturbed

nights.



The first six months of this new century have exposed the new regime’s

PR limitations as it has stumbled.



In one sense, it is amazing that this transformation has occurred. After

all, overall inflation is historically low, unemployment continues to

fall, house prices are buoyant and prosperity is high. What’s more,

Chancellor Gordon Brown is not overtly damaging the economy, though he

is taxing us more and spending more. On this basis everything should be

just fine and dandy for the Government. Labour should be winning every

credit for having demonstrably swapped its old profligacy for a new

prudence.



But it isn’t. Leave aside the ludicrous poll-ing effects of the Blairs’

baby, Leo, William Hague, previously written off as a dud, is closing

the gap and the Prime Minister’s unprecedented popularity with the

electors has melted away to next to nothing. As Labour MPs worry over

their party losing the electorate, the Government thrashes around,

chucking cash denominated in telephone numbers at education, health and

transport and strives to regain its egalitarian credentials with the

Chancellor’s misjudged attack on Oxford’s ’elitism’.



The change has occurred not, curiously, because the media generally have

revolted, as they should have done a long time ago, against Labour’s

media management. They remain astonishingly quiescent in the face of

Alastair Campbell’s cynical brand of favouritism and opportunism.

Instead, what has gone wrong is the Government’s PR. It has never

recovered from the mess of the new year’s eve launch of the Dome, which

is seen by so many to symbolise the Government’s brittle

pretentiousness. Since then, it is the manner of its governance, rather

than its halting performance which has come under fire.



There are broadly two complaints which are summed up in the word

’arrogant’: namely, that it is taking its core supporters for granted;

and its apparent belief that every problem can be finessed and

manipulated away by endless initiatives. These impressions are not just

the product of panic over a seeming inability to do anything right which

all governments experience.



They have consistently tried to build a reputation on short-term

fixes.



It is a fundamental and unprofessional failure. So New Labour has turned

out not to be the model for a new PR, but a lesson in how not to do

it.



My nightmare is over. The Government’s is just beginning.



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