Election 97: PRWeek’s panel of experts give their view on who’s winning the battle of political spin

John Underwood, senior partner Clear Communication and former director of communications for the Labour Party.

John Underwood, senior partner Clear Communication and former

director of communications for the Labour Party.

This election campaign has been a remarkably clean one, indeed somewhat

lacking in passion and fireworks.

The politicians and their spin doctors have remained firmly in control

of the agenda and even the broadcasters’ decision to keep politicians

off the screen and put political reporters on instead has done little to

dent the parties’ ability to get their messages across.

We can now see that Labour’s strategy was simple: with little to choose

between the two major parties on policy the choice becomes one of

competence, leadership and trust. Good news for Blair.

The big untold story of the campaign involves direct mail. Labour has

been bombarding its target voters for 18 months. The Tories were in the

field far too late and were heavily outgunned.

Verdict: Labour to win and to outperform its national share of the vote

in key target seats. Liberal Democrats to make significant progress

thanks to tactical voting.

Hugh Colver, public affairs consultant and former director of

communications for the Conservative Party.

There will be many out there who will observe that this election has not

been a great triumph for the PR men. There is a feeling around that the

campaign successes were not the work of spin doctors, but the work of

politicians following their instincts.

On the technical side there was not a single decent poster, pretty poor

advertising and some distinctly lousy slogans. The election broadcasts

gave some glimmer of hope that our industry would salvage some credit -

but not much.

Politics is public relations, after all. Perhaps we should stop trying

to impose some false expertise on to an industry that knows its market

and knows how to address it.

The last week has been about the switcher and the floater - quite

properly since there are now more of them.

Verdict: Week six to Labour - not my view, but the view of the


Olly Grender, director of communications for Shelter and former director

of communications for the Liberal Democrats.

I’m bored with people who say this has been a boring campaign. I’ve

loved every minute, so I’m awarding some ’on message Oscars’ for those

who spun above and beyond the call of duty.

The Labour campaign gets the top award. They stuck to their safety first

agenda and gave little away. Their advertising was bland, but safe.

The Liberal Democrats for sticking to education and health and not

wandering off into hung Parliament scenarios. In this they were greatly

helped by the consistent predictions of an overall Labour majority.

John Major, who did the only thing he could have and made the election

about himself and his integrity.

Top marks to all the spin doctors who this time stayed behind the

scenes, rather than allowing the self indulgence of media profiles.

The ’off message Oscars’ must go to the media for slavishly following

the Europe and sleaze stories to the exclusion of the bread and butter

issues. Likewise those Tories who broke ranks on sleaze and Europe.

There is very little a campaign can do to counter a lack of discipline

in the team.

The Conservative poster campaign has been very confused, only the demon

eyes made an impact, and they abandoned that before the campaign.

Verdict: Labour to win.

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