OPINION: The Big Question - What is the least believable claim a politician has made to be popular?

Tory leader William Hague’s claim last week that he had drunk 14 pints as a young drayman failed to impress as intended. He was not the first politician to find himself in that situation

Tory leader William Hague’s claim last week that he had drunk 14

pints as a young drayman failed to impress as intended. He was not the

first politician to find himself in that situation





COLIN BYRNE - Shandwick Public Affairs



’We have had some tall stories from politicians trying to build street

cred, although Hague is a party leader and not some second-rate stringer

trying to grab attention. Witness Chris Smith telling Q magazine that he

was a big Robbie Williams fan but not being able to name a single song

Witness Clinton falling into the same trap over Fleetwood Mac. Or for a

real whopper, recall Portillo claiming the Poll Tax would be a

’vote-winner’. But why did Hague make the claim in the first place?

After months of public debate about drunkenness and yobbery, should an

aspirant Prime Minister come on like a bar room braggart?’





DAVID BEAMER - PoliticsDirect.com



’You know summer has arrived when a comment made by a senior public

figure on his youthful drinking abilities hits the front pages. But when

politicians return after recess, the debate will move on to more serious

subjects. The economy is one of those, as George Bush found to his cost

in the 1988 presidential campaign when he pledged: ’Read my lips: No new

taxes’. By 1990, he said that there would have to be ’tax revenue

increases’ and went on to suffer a heavy defeat. With the increasing use

of the internet for campaigning, comments by public figures will get

picked up and disseminated across the globe within seconds. Bush’s

’worst mistake’ could, if repeated now, be magnified enormously.’





MARK PENDLINGTON - PPS Public Affairs



’In the run up to the 1997 general election, Tony Blair said that the

country had ’24 hours to save the NHS’. An ambitious claim to make in

the circumstances, proving perhaps that expectations are not best

managed when the focus is on election day rather than the day after. On

the other hand, former US VP Dan Quayle can always be relied upon to

provide a quote for the silly season. For example: ’I have made good

judgements in the past. I have made good judgements in the future’. Even

in the 1980s, some politicians had the foresight to realise that saying

you’ve taken the right decision, even before you might have taken it, is

the best way to manage the message. Or am I being too generous?’





CHARLES LEWINGTON - Media Strategy



’We are all familiar with the desperate attempts of politicians to gain

favour from their electorate. Tony Blair once claimed he had run away

from school to board a plane to the Bahamas at Newcastle airport - even

though no plane had ever left Newcastle for that destination. Neil

Kinnock, who liked as many pints as William Hague, claimed he preferred

a glass of chardonnay. The least believable claim has to be from Michael

Heseltine, who regularly said in the late 1980s: ’I can foresee no

circumstances in which I would allow my name to be put forward for the

leadership of the Conservative party.’ Many Tories would argue this is

the worst case of men behaving badly. There is a golden rule of

political PR that if you wish to influence public opinion with some

story of derring-do from your youth, get a friend to tell the story on

your behalf.’



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