Can Labour still be believed to be ’on message’?

The media management industry’s in-phrase is ’on message’. Either you are ’on message’ today or you are causing trouble. Labour is widely credited with winning the 1 May election because it was ’on message’ and the Tories were ’off message’, or all over the show.

The media management industry’s in-phrase is ’on message’. Either

you are ’on message’ today or you are causing trouble. Labour is widely

credited with winning the 1 May election because it was ’on message’ and

the Tories were ’off message’, or all over the show.



In fact, the Tories handed the election to Labour because they had grown

weary, divided and suicidally quarrelsome and self-indulgent after 18

years in office. Labour helped to make themselves even more electable by

pinching both the Tories’ philosophy and programme and acquiring the

discipline that comes with political hunger.



As one who sweated blood for 11 years trying to get three successive

Thatcher Governments to sing to the same hymn sheets - or ’on message’,

as the jargon now has it - I am the last person to sneer at the similar

and considerable efforts of Labour’s Minister without Portfolio, Peter

Mandelson and chief press secretary, Alastair Campbell.



But I think it’s important to distinguish between the message and the

mechanics of keeping the troops ’on message’. First, there has to be a

message. Second, the troops have to know what it is if they are to keep

on it. And then comes the process of orchestrating its delivery - ie

maximising the volume and keeping the messengers ’on message’. By far

the most important, if not necessarily the most difficult, is devising

and maintaining a coherent message.



I have been moved to analyse the PR process after joining Mr Mandelson

on Radio 4’s Any Questions? last Friday. Is he, I wonder, more

preoccupied with mechanics than substance? The reason I ask is that this

scourge of Tory ’fat cats’ had that very day created a new one in

international fund raiser Mark McCormack, who is due to earn pounds 9

million by raising pounds 150 million for the Millenium Experience in

Greenwich.



This sits ill with Heritage Secretary Chris Smith trying to bully

Camelot directors into giving up, by comparison, tiny bonuses which they

had earned under contract. So does Labour’s piety over sleaze when,

after only two months in power, two of its MPs are already suspended

over allegations of bribery and failure to declare a Serbian business

interest; a third is under pressure for allegedly not revealing another

business connection; two ministers have apologised for failing to

declare an all-expenses paid trip abroad; and Prime Minister Tony Blair

is embroiled in a ’who lies?’ row over a Welsh MP who claims he has been

threatened with expulsion by Welsh Secretary Ron Davies if he opposes

devolution.



This is not to mention the credibility of Labour’s new ’low tax’ image

after Gordon Brown’s first Budget this week. What is their message now

about fat cats, sleaze and taxes?



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in