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

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

John Underwoood, senior partner Clear Communication and former

director of communications for the Labour Party

The past ten days have not been brilliant for Labour but the Tories have

failed to capitalise on Labour’s wobbles and blips and still haven’t

landed a serious blow. The polls continued to show Labour a solid 20

points ahead.

Individual Tory candidates are beginning to recognise that a Eurosceptic

tone wins votes locally. But nationally the wide-ranging nature of

personal Conservative manifestos only serves to underline the bitterly

divided nature of the party.

As Labour and the Tories fight for the middle ground, it’s the Lib Dems

who look different and differentiation is everything in political


The Lib Dems are having a good campaign. They’re moving up in the polls

and since their support is increasingly concentrated in small pockets,

expect them to make gains.

Verdict: A good week for the Lib Dems but Labour still on course for a

big victory.

Hugh Colver, public affairs consultant and former director of

communications for the Conservative Party

This lacklustre week began with a spark of excitement - the Tory

Eurosceptics are ’coming out’. This is awkward because it is not policy,

the polls suggest that ’no’ is more appealing than ’wait and see’. The

biggest presentational challenge yet could now emerge. How do you play a

winning card when it is not supposed to be in the pack?

The best material is still in the one-liners. Major on Labour education

policy: ’A shameless contract with hypocrisy’. Blair on the Government’s

efforts on fisheries policy: ’Mickey Mouse could have done better’.

Goldsmith on the Referendum Party: ’Formed to break the silence’.

(Silence? On Europe? Where has he been?).

Labour’s latest election broadcast took us back to animals. A tired

bulldog spoke for us all when he sloped off camera apparently shaking

the dust from his paws.

Verdict: Week four a yawn and a draw, but perhaps it’s about to liven


Olly Grender, director of Communications for Shelter and former director

of communications for the Liberal Democrats

Europe is the issue every party wishes to avoid. For the Tories it means

one thing - splits. No one should underestimate the damage caused by

being divided, the punters cannot bear it. Any row about Europe is a

double-edged sword for Labour and the Liberal Democrats. In the seats

where they are challenging the Conservatives the single currency will be

deeply unpopular.

They would all be wise to avoid the debate like the plague.

The British Bulldog in their party election broadcast is the final proof

that Labour have, successfully, destroyed the Tories’ home


As for the Labour business election broadcast it looked to me like the

American Express advert - slick.

Labour have no choice but to play it negative, they will jeopardise

their lead if they don’t. They open every interview saying how important

it is to be positive and get back to the issues and then they put the

boot in. I assume it is a strategy, sadly it is necessary in order to


The Lib Dems tend to go up in the polls when a campaign first begins

because broadcasters are legally required to give them more


For the first three weeks of the campaign there was no shift, which

surprised me. We are now seeing that increase which will be particularly

important in Lib Dem target seats.

Verdict: Labour winning - the lead is holding.

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