As the country settles uncomfortably down to a six month election
campaign, those of us in the PR game should reflect on that elusive
asset called unity. The Labour Party has gone to almost Stalinist
lengths to maintain it, with astonishing success. And the Tories in
Bournemouth last week amazingly recovered a semblance of it.
Consequently, a fifth Tory victory on the trot is being canvassed for
next April, with the proviso that all bets are off if they crack up
again over Europe, or anything else for that matter. ‘United we stand,
divided we fall’ applies as much to Conservatives as to the working
Nobody is daft enough to assume that the tensions in both our main
parties have evaporated. Both broad churches accommodate all sorts of
ideas under two ideological umbrellas, one interventionist and the other
libertarian. Everybody will continue to see double when they look at
either party - new and old Labour and Europhile and Eurosceptic Tory.
But that is not the point. The clincher is whether their members can
demonstrate their will to win by subjugating their personal passions to
what, presumably, they believe is in the national interest - namely,
that their party should govern the country. In short, are they serious?
You may find all this impossibly cynical. Indeed, you may argue that the
Tories are preposterously cynical if, after four years of self-
indulgence, they think that they can make it on only six months of
‘unity’, assuming that is what they secure. But we know, human nature
being what it is, that people are a fractious, not to say factious, lot.
The test is not whether people are ‘united’; it is whether they wish to
appear ‘united’ for a purpose. So far Labour’s wish has been greater
than that of the Conservatives. Labour have thus looked far more the
likely eventual winners.
We, as PR people, should not ignore this point in our wider dealings
with clients who are far removed from the rough trade of politics.
Indeed, the more I think about it the more I believe that we have one
great gift to bestow on those who are prepared to receive it: namely
If we can stop people thrashing around, concentrate their minds on what
they stand for or wish to achieve and persuade them to organise
themselves to that end, we can bring value far in excess of our fee. The
result is a more coherent company or institution with a platform upon
which to build a reputation.
What is more, its new found coherence of purpose will remove other
distractions and focus attention on the worth of its products or
services. If they can sustain it, that is exactly what the Tories new-
found coherence in Bournemouth will do for our politics.
Sir Bernard Ingham writes for the Daily Express