ELECTION 2001: PRWeek's panel of experts give their view on who are the early winners in the election campaign

CHARLES LEWINGTON ... former Tory director of communications

'With Blair and Hague's ratings falling, politicians have clearly been

the losers so far. Hague's decision to launch his manifesto first was

good tactics but tactics shouldn't be confused with presentation.

'Newspaper pundits saw their reputation dented by claiming - often in

the same stories - that Millbank was in turmoil and Tory Central Office

was 'slick', yet their polls still showed Labour 17 points ahead. I

subscribe to the Charlie Whelan test: turn the TV's sound down and look

at the images. Stage management always wins.

'My winner so far has been John Humphrys, who wiped the smirk of Blair's

face with his brilliant interview. Contrasting fortunes, however, for

two Gerrys. Retiring MP Gerry Bermingham is guaranteed a place in the

hearts of St Helen's voters because his replacement is odious turncoat

Shaun Woodward. But it's downhill now for Labour-endorsing Geri


Did she, I wonder, consider that Tony may win the election - but become

the most unpopular PM in memory within weeks?

JEREMY BROWNE ... former Lib Dem director of press and broadcasting

'The Tories are congratulating themselves, but their campaign has been

like an advert celebrated with industry awards but which adds nothing to


'Hague remains an electoral liability but the Tories' policies are a

bigger problem. Everyone would rather pay 72.9p for a litre of petrol

than 78.9p, but it hardly amounts to a prospectus for Government.

'The Lib Dems have made a great start. The 'whistle-stop' tour set the

tempo and - on their smaller budget - I predict the Lib Dem poll rating

will rise by more than the Tory rating during the campaign.

'Labour should not re-run the last campaign. Government by pledge card,

so seductively simple in 1997, has not been an unqualified success and a

repeat should have been avoided.

'Everyone can now reflect on the timeless authority bestowed upon a

Prime Minister by a sombre Downing Street announcement. Sometimes the

most simple public relations is the best public relations.'

STEVE MORGAN ... former Al Gore campaigner

'It was not such a good start for Labour. But claims that the opening PR

round of this campaign was won by the Conservatives is a little too

generous. So, a staged despatch box swipe on Europe grabbed the

headlines for an hour. I should imagine Downing Street would have been

pretty pleased to see this most dangerous of political boils lanced in

the early stages of the campaign.

'The Labour campaign machine is flooding the national press with stories

based on its strongest policy suit - an enviable economic record in


As always, it has shown a good nose for positive news - the open letter

of support from business leaders which appeared in Monday's Times was a

classic example of shifting the agenda towards policy and Government


'By Tuesday, William Hague's brief moment in the sunshine was over as,

once again, a member of his shadow cabinet went off message, and then

into hiding! 'Tories plan pounds 20bn in tax cuts,' screamed the

newspapers. A defensive Hague could only reply with ' no its not, we're

only refunding pounds 8bn'. Labour, sensing another Tory split story,

listed the copious public services that would have to be cut to save

pounds 20bn.

- Steve Morgan replaces Joy Johnson, who has become GLA head of media


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