CAMPAIGNS: Election 2001 - What The Media Say. Messages of main parties face key test

Organisation: Three main political parties

Issue: Election messages

Prior to the launch of the party campaigns for the election, Echo

Research, PRWeek's regular media analyst, consulted with an independent

political strategist, who predicted the platforms on which parties would

concentrate in order to receive positive coverage.

For Labour these included their record on the economy and tax,

investment in schools and hospitals and the 'fact' that New Labour has


The Tories would emphasise tough stances on Europe and asylum seekers

and the 'fact' that Labour had broken its 1997 promises.

The Liberal Democrats would underline that they are the party of

honesty, and would increase real investment in public services through

increased taxation. Echo's subsequent analysis of more than 3,800

articles shows which of these main messages the parties have been most

successful in getting across to the print media.

Inititally, coverage favoured the Tories, who pushed issues to the fore

with the early publication of their manifesto, while the majority of the

newspapers put pressure on Labour by taking them to task where they had

failed to deliver. The first two weeks were dominated by messages from

all three main parties on taxation, with several rounds of sparring

before Labour landed a killer punch in the form of John Prescott who

knocked the issues' debate sideways for a few days.

As in 1997, the Tory message machine became dominated by Europe as the

campaign developed, though the focus this time was on saving the pound

rather than the 'horrors' of the Social Chapter. But William Hague found

himself increasingly backed into a corner by accusations of 'single

issue campaigning', as his stance on asylum seekers and law and order

failed to deliver more than sporadic headlines.

In contrast, Millbank rode the wave of the economic feel-good


One by one, the opinion-forming press - from The Times to the FT to The

Economist - declared their backing for Blair, generally qualified by

demands to boost spending on public services, and tempered by

accusations of arrogance and ignoring the parliamentary process.

Analysis and commentary by Echo Research. More information can be found


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