It’s time Hague starts attending to his political appearance

What should any self-respecting PR adviser say to William Hague after last week’s oft-repeated fiasco over the Tory leader’s image? Well, for my part, I would advise him to ban any mention of the subject in any document circulated in Conservative Central Office for at least the next 12 months.

What should any self-respecting PR adviser say to William Hague

after last week’s oft-repeated fiasco over the Tory leader’s image?

Well, for my part, I would advise him to ban any mention of the subject

in any document circulated in Conservative Central Office for at least

the next 12 months.



There are at least four good reasons for such an edict: he obviously

cannot rely on the CCO to keep its documents to itself; his image is of

morbid interest to the media, thanks in part to his own earlier

misjudged efforts to give the impression he is ’with it’ by wearing a

baseball cap and sipping coconut juice; he has already had more image

relaunches, as Labour describes them, than is good for any political

leader - at least a dozen on John Prescott’s score card; and it is not

the function of HM loyal opposition to give the Government pleasure.



There is also a strong strategic reason for Mr Hague forgetting about

image and concentrating on Labour’s jugular. Indeed, I would argue that

what UK politics desperately needs is a successful political leader who

displays an absolute contempt for image. We need to break television’s

malign stranglehold on the political process. There will be many - and

evidently a lot in CCO - who doubt whether anyone can win an election

without TV appeal, which is essentially what image adds up to. If so,

then God help us. That would imply settling for a succession of Warren

Beattys, a potential American presidential candidate who has hitherto

been known more for his interest in the opposite sex than in political

philosophy.



It is, of course, unwise to dismiss actors as political leaders since

that B-movie star, Ronald Reagan restored America’s faith in itself

after Vietnam. But President Reagan makes my point: he was not just a

pretty, if often vacant, face; he actually believed in something - a

strong America, based on minimum government, free enterprise, personal

responsibility and low taxes - and demonstrated his resolution to pursue

his creed.



Mr Reagan was a brilliant communicator but, more importantly, he had

something to communicate. Having already modernised his party, Mr Hague

should therefore update and proclaim the historic Conservative appeal

and use it to demonstrate Mr Blair’s pseudo-Conservatism. He should

strip Labour of its cosmetics, in health, education, welfare, transport

and suppression of crime, ruthlessly expose its astonishing capacity for

’sleaze’ - remember Mr Blair’s U-turns on tobacco advertising and

fox-hunting, Robin Cook, Ron Davies and Peter Mandelson? - tear into its

unrelenting attack on tradition and savage its assault on the

constitution and the United Kingdom. If he does all that clearly, simply

and graphically, he will find that his image will take care of itself.



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