Remember 'Labour isn't working' from 1979? Or back in 1992 when The
Sun so skilfully asked the last person in Britain to 'turn off the
lights', should unsuccessful Labour leader Neil Kinnock get in.
Now, despite the campaign being in its final throes as PRWeek goes to
press, we already have an undisputed winner - that Prescott punch.
When the dust is cleared, when commentators and psephologists deliver
their analyses, the fact will remain that no matter how effective a
certain line on the economy or Europe is thought to be, this was the
year when the Deputy Prime Minister decked an egg-throwing country
dweller from Rhyl.
Of course the moment will not dictate the voting intentions of a
But according to former Labour press chief Colin Byrne, the incident was
this campaign's key event.
He said: 'For the first two weeks of the campaign we had nothing but
soundbites, nothing that engaged the public. Until the Prescott
This sent the media into a frenzy and people suddenly became interested
in the election. Suddenly messages about the issues were being
'We've had two decades of spin that I think are coming to an end. People
don't want to see stage-managed events anymore. The punch was
unscripted, it couldn't be planned, it couldn't be managed,' Byrne
Could this election really be a sign that spin is dead? Are people now
simply too media savvy to stomach obvious spin and planning?
If this is the case then surely the PROs behind the politicians must
retreat further into the shadows to increase their effectiveness.
The Liberal Democrat campaign has shown the effectiveness of this
In a climate of increasing public intolerance of media management, the
Lib Dems - and in particular Charles Kennedy - have shone.
Kennedy aides say the Lib Dem leader's success has taken even the party
by surprise. One said: 'It was all for him to prove and he has proved
himself by being himself. Our approach has been honest. Our message has
been that you can't get something for nothing and that's got
But some Labour sources say the Lib Dems have benefited from a lack of
criticism at a national level.
One source said: 'No-one has put any serious fire on them. They said
they'd put tax up by 1p but if you look at the figures that is nowhere
near enough to pay for the things they say it will.'
For the Tories, the election was lost before it began. But it would
appear they have also lost the campaign.
In Wales the party was hit by one of the most embarrassing blunders in
In the same bucket of PR shame as Kinnock's smug chant of 'we're
alright' at the badly timed Sheffield rally in 1992, must lie the
Conservative's Welsh language manifesto launch that was abandoned due to
shoddy translation of key words such as 'Tory' and 'Wales'.
Press Association Wales editor Jamie Lyons was at the launch. He says:
'They had this big fanfare for something very embarrassing that they
then pulled. That fact was widely reported. For days afterwards at
Central Office we kept asking for it. Eventually it turned up but this
time without the fanfare.'
But the problem with the Conservative campaign goes further than
The whole thrust has been towards their traditional supporters and, it
would appear, no-one else.
They have played to true blue issues, with Europe and immigration at the
It has appeared merely as a campaign of consolidation, which is
unacceptable for a major political party, according to one former Tory
'How on earth after four years have they allowed the situation to
This would not have happened with Margaret Thatcher. The reason people
vote is trust and Hague has failed to give the electorate the
reassurance they can trust him,' he says.
A recent MORI poll - where voters were asked which out of a list of
issues, were important in helping to decide which party to vote for -
suggests the Tories have it profoundly wrong.
The top issues were health and education, receiving 61 per cent and 53
per cent responses respectively.
Managing the economy and Europe, the two Tory battle cries, were
relatively low, gaining only 29 per cent and 18 per cent
During the final days of the campaign, Labour has followed this lead and
at the same time made an 11th hour plea to its core voters by focusing
on health and education.
Last week, for example, saw the unveiling of the Labour slogan, 'Urgent
reminder, vote for schools and hospitals this Thursday'.
Will Labour's campaign be seen as a success? In the final analysis, only
the result can determine that, but it is worth noting that immediately
after Labour's 1992 rally in Sheffield the event was seen in a good
The BBC's then political editor John Cole referred to it in the same
breath as the presidential campaigning of John F Kennedy in the
Perhaps in ten years' time analysts will look back at the Prescott punch
and gasp with shock at the PR success it marked for the Blair regime.