Public Affairs: Soap Box - Paul Richards, former special adviser to Hazel Blears and Patricia Hewitt

Early on 20 March 2003 the US tried to 'shock and awe' Saddam Hussein's forces with fire-power. First, it aimed a cruise missile at him, and missed.

Something similar happened last week in the opening hours of the 2010 general election, although in reverse. The Tories' poster campaign was a show of force. To blow half a million on vanity advertising six months before polling day was Steve Hilton's way of saying 'look at my wad'.

Political posters are mostly useless. They can assuage doubt or reinforce opinions. Voters do not see a digitally enhanced face and switch sides.

Then there was the assassination attempt, which was like watching Stan and Ollie shift a piano upstairs. Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon were egged on by a senior figure, who then went to ground. Reports suggest a posh-looking woman was seen running from the scene in the direction of Peckham.

The real fall-out from last week has to be the concessions wrung from Brown by his ministers. Peter Mandelson, Ed Balls, Harriet Harman and Douglas Alexander have all been promised influence over election strategy.

Campaigns, like ships, need a single commander. If Labour wants an experienced hand at the wheel it should be Mandelson. When many people are in charge of a political campaign, no-one is.

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