OPINION: Black falls for Tory charm, but the public won't

I think I had dinner with Guy Black, the new Tory head of media, at the Labour Party conference this year. I say think, because I confess to having had a few post lunch sherbets and my recollection of the evening hosted by The Mail on Sunday is not altogether clear.

The one thing I do remember though is that Guy thought that the Tories had no chance of winning the next election under Iain Duncan Smith. Presumably he now believes that a change in leader will change the Tories' fortunes.

I suspect that the ex-director of the Press Complaint Commission let his heart rule his head when he accepted Michael Howard's invitation to take on a tougher PR job than promoting the Scottish football team. Why is it that so many talented people seem to have a brain bypass when approached to take on the task of selling the Tories? My old friend Amanda Platell had a very successful career as a journalist and editor of a national daily, yet fell for the 'it will be a great challenge' line from the then Tory leader. Two leaders later and Guy Black has fallen for it, too.

I know that the Tories have a new spring in their step at the moment, but just because the party is no longer led by a bozo it doesn't mean they have any more chance of winning the next election. The fact is that since the demise of IDS, the polls have actually moved in Labour's favour and Howard's way doesn't lead me to believe that anything will change.

In fact, if Black thinks the same as his new leader about the media, then I'm convinced he will fail.

Both the departing head of communications and the new boy on the block used last week's Sunday papers to set out their stall. The most interesting new fact came from Paul Baverstock writing in The Sunday Times. The former chief spin doctor rightly pointed out that in order to get the Tory message across you had to ignore the Westminster village agenda set by the Today programme and concentrate on GMTV, IRN and local media outlets. Baverstock reveals that Howard did not agree with that analysis.

Black, interviewed in Tony Blair's house magazine The Observer, made the point of saying that 'he is no Alastair Campbell'. For sure that is true, but why on earth should he even want to compare himself with the discredited former Number 10 spinner?

Campbell was never involved in Labour's strategic thinking because he was no strategist. His job was simply to promote Blair and use all his undoubted skills in manipulating the media in his boss's favour. Surly Guy Black will see his role as being more than that?

The signs are not good, though. We are told that Guy Black will be as good as Campbell because he knows all the newspaper editors from his old job and even once went on holiday with the editor of The Sun.

I have news for Mr Black. The editor of The Sun does not decide on the paper's political line; Rupert Murdoch does. In any case, knowing your way around the broadcasting world is every bit as important as the papers, and as far as I know Black has little knowledge of this part of the media.

My only advice to Black is that he should ban his boss from having anything to do with sport. Campbell pretended Blair was a keen football fan and his boss was happy to play along. Oh, how he must regret that advice now.

Blair was in fact a keen rugby player at school, but that didn't fit the New Labour image. Now England have won the World Cup and, as the PM tries to get in on the act, he is seen for the cynic he truly is.

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