ELECTION 2001: PRWeek's panel of experts give their view on the stars of the general election campaign

Charles Lewington ... former Tory director of communications

'Douglas Alexander, MP for Paisley South, has been one of the stars of

Labour's campaign. A key strategist at Millbank, he's performed adroitly

on TV on the breaking stories beat. He has the advantage of being a

reassuring Scot, with a delivery close to sincerity - not bad for an

aspiring politician.

'BBC political editor Andrew Marr has had a brilliant campaign. He

hasn't fallen into the trap of feeling the need to nominate a campaign

winner and loser every night and has often poked dry fun at all


'The Wombles of Wimbledon, courtesy of the GMB union, would have got a

PR award if they didn't have to take their outfits off when it got too

hot. And Sharron Storer, who upstaged the PM's manifesto launch, may

have had some media training given her readiness to invite cameras in to

film her cancer-struck husband and deliver a perfect soundbite.

'Here's the hard bit for Tories to swallow: we may hate the grin, the

dissembling, the outrageous theft of the Emperor's clothes, but watching

Tony Blair fencing with Jeremy Paxman made you realise what a star turn

the Prime Minister is. Let us hope the next Tory leader has PR talents

in equal measure.'

VERDICT: Douglas Alexander, Andrew Marr, Tony Blair, and the Wombles

Steve Morgan ... former Al Gore campaigner

'Charles Kennedy had a near flawless PR record this election. He

embraced his party's frailty and came out smiling. The Lib Dems are

quick to capitalise on the 'publicity on a plate' which elections hand

them, and the result has shown him emerge from Paddy Ashdown's


'Anne Widdecombe's transformation from a self-styled battleaxe into a

friendly people's politician has been nothing short of remarkable - and

just in time for a party leadership bid.

'However, it's the combination of two Conservatives that gets my vote.

William Hague, who will not stay in the nation's consciousness for long

after the inevitable Tory defeat and leadership change. And Margaret

Thatcher, who will. Their unintentional legacy to the nation was not a

Conservative creation, but William Thatcher, earrings and all, will be

remembered as one of the most striking images of the campaign.'

VERDICT: Charles Kennedy, Anne Widdecombe and William Thatcher

Jeremy Browne ... former Lib Dem director of press and broadcasting.

'All Tories are disqualified from consideration - their campaign has

been dreadful. All the Tories talk about is being anti-euro and

anti-asylum seeker. Their tone is mean-spirited, and their

placard-waving supporters reminiscent of 1980s left-wing extremists.

'Labour's campaign has been disappointingly defensive and stage-managed,

failing to generate any sense of optimism. But their campaign

foundations provide a pretty solid election platform.

'Brown, Mandelson and Campbell have played important roles. Some

ministers, including Mowlam and Blunkett, have helped broaden Labour's


'But the person who has reconstructed the framework of British politics,

and therefore determined the shape of this campaign, is Tony Blair. More

for the last four years than the last four weeks, Blair has been the

election PR star.'

VERDICT: Tony Blair, Mo Mowlam and David Blunkett.

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