CHARLES LEWINGTON ... former Tory director of communications
'Charles Kennedy says a test of the credibility of his party will be
whether the Liberal Democrats top the 17 per cent share of the vote the
party secured in 1997. On the basis of the campaign so far, he will
struggle to pass that test.
'Throughout the last Parliament, Kennedy failed to capitalise on
Labour's failure to deliver on public services as Blair continued to
hold out the (totally fictitious) Third Way promise of cabinet posts and
'Instead of going into the election as a party leader who will spend
more and deliver more on better public services, Kennedy is a party
leader who will tax more but offer no more significant improvements to
schools and hospitals than Labour - not saying much.
'Kennedy comes across on TV as genial (which he is) and ineffectual
(which he is not). Reading the brown bear story to school children and
wandering through the Eden Project with his girlfriend were soft, and
seemingly un-stage-managed events. But other than the fact that a vote
for the Lib Dems is either wasted or might cost you money, does anyone
know what they stand for? Their tactics look like going down under that
familiar heading: Opportunity missed.'
VERDICT: Kennedy has not capitalised on Labour's public services
STEVE MORGAN ... former Al Gore campaigner
'The muddle over the Tories' tax-cutting policy, which looked to be the
main gaffe of their campaign, was surpassed by their inability to
respond to the 'Prescott punch'. Trying to make political gain out of a
violent attack on one of your opponents is always a dangerous judgement,
but for a few moments I thought Hague had pulled it off.
''I'm not in the habit of hitting the voters,' was the perfect reply to
the question of how he would have responded. Hague couldn't resist
putting the boot into an opponent who looked down and out. His comments
that this is what happens when Labour is faced with meeting real people
was a big mistake. Trying to associate Prescott's attacker with
'ordinary voters' did not go down well, especially when it became clear
that the majority of the public were on Prescott's side.'
VERDICT: Trying to gain from violence against your opponent is
JEREMY BROWNE ... former Lib Dem director of press and broadcasting
'Everyone regards Labour's lead as part of the political landscape, but
it's remarkable to have maintained it during the campaign. It's based on
both the personal appeal of Blair, which reassures those uneasy with
traditional Labour, and on the strength of the economy, with growth, low
unemployment, low inflation and low interest rates.
'Aside from this, Labour's campaign has been woeful. A seam of neurotic
incompetence runs through Millbank, whose greatest PR triumph has been
the successful misrepresentation of its own ability.
'Labour's campaign has been defensive, overly stage-managed, fearful of
the public, visibly spun and uninspiring.
'The party can be thankful the Tories remain so unattractive. But if
they win again, they will embark on a second term with only lukewarm
support and the need for a communications overhaul.'
VERDICT: Millbank's PR triumph is the misrepresentation of its own