OPINION: Tory Party would benefit from a little less spin

As Labour and Alastair Campbell are engaged in trench warfare with the BBC, it's not surprising that the Tories have been slowly creeping up in the polls.

Although this probably has little to do with anything the Conservative Party has done, there is no doubt that Tory spin doctors are delighted.

But just think how much stronger their position could be if they were able to back the BBC against the Government in this fight. Little-noticed in all the hot air over the Corporation and it's Iraq war coverage was the visit by Tory Chairman Teresa May to see Greg Dyke, to complain about the beeb being anti- Tory.

My experience of the BBC is that they do listen to complaints from the political parties and take them seriously, although I'm not sure that some of my shouting at BBC hacks was quite so effective. Most media analysts do think the Tories had a case, particularly over the BBC coverage of the local elections, but the Tories' problem is that they are obsessed with attacking the BBC and they forget, like Campbell, that the vast majority of the public trusts the broadcasters over the politicians.

If only the Tory Party could perform the same sort of political gymnastics as the Daily Mail, which, having spent years deriding the BBC, said this week: 'We have never questioned its integrity or the vital role it plays in British public life.' Like the Daily Mail, the Tory Party has not only spent much of the past few decades attacking the BBC, they supported the war, too. Is it any wonder then, that the most effective opposition to Blair has come from Labour MPs, now led by Robin Cook, who, unlike Clare Short, still has some respect in the country? Iain Duncan Smith, on the other hand, has let Blair off the hook every time he has faced him in the House of Commons.

Despite all this, the Tory spin doctors have been busy working out a new strategy for their leader. They accept that IDS has virtually no charisma and is the complete opposite of Tony Blair. This, though, is their ace card. Tory director of strategic communications (chief spin doctor) Paul Baverstock, who came from Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, has a new buzzword - authenticity. Baverstock knows that IDS will never be able to play to his audience the way Blair does, but believes that by being plain-speaking IDS can be sold as being authentic.

The Tory strategists haven't said it yet, but what they want to be is 'anti-spin'. This is pretending that you are no longer going to spin anything and are just honest, decent chaps. The only people to succeed in this so far have been women - Mo Mowlam, Ann Widdecombe and Clare Short. The truth is that all three of these politicians did as much, and probably more, to promote their image than most MPs. Widdecombe went on ITV's Celebrity Fit Club, Mowlam would take her wig off in public and Clare Short wouldn't go anywhere without her own spin doctor.

The Tories have said they are not going to package up IDS as a celebrity, as Amanda Platell tried and failed to do with William Hague. The fact is, they have no choice with IDS.

The big question is, will this work? Most Tory MPs who have to sit through Prime Minister's Questions and see their leader trounced by Blair, who himself is not one of the best Commons performers, still want a new leader.

They probably know, though, that it's too late to change their leader before the next election.

It could just be that with trust in Blair now at an all-time low and spin so discredited, presenting IDS as an ordinary bloke - which is exactly what he is - might just be the Tories' best bet.

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