Election 2010: Leading comms experts, with different allegiances, give their verdict so far


If the medium is the message, so is the venue for a manifesto launch. Labour chose a vast, expensive, new NHS hospital in Birmingham. We will still be paying for it when my children are subscribing to Saga Magazine. The Tories chose Battersea Power Station: looks good from a distance, but up close it is crumbling and hollow.

Labour's manifesto cover is art deco, but the content is pure New Labour. Peter Mandelson called it 'Blair-plus'. Ed Balls was filmed asking incredulously 'he didn't really say that, did he?', proving that microphones are always on. The media enjoyed lampooning the 21-year-old Labour queen of Twitter 'Bevanite Ellie', who introduced the PM at the launch, but had blogged in 2008 that he should 'get his coat'.

The backdrop to Brown's speech strobed like crazy, ruining the TV news pictures. But behind Labour's continuing PR 'snafus' is a radical programme. I have read it cover to cover. It is not the manifesto of a party that has given up.

Richards formerly advised cabinet ministers Patricia Hewitt and Hazel Blears, and is the author of How to Win an Election. He writes a weekly column for Progress

TIM COLLINS - Conservatives

The polls still do not agree on whether the Conservative lead is quite enough for a majority, but they do all show that David Cameron is thought to have run the best campaign so far.

He has been dynamic, energetic and optimistic - travelling furthest, doing the most media, collecting the largest number of business endorsements, launching more new policy. Getting Michael Caine, the ultimate symbol of Sixties rebellion against the Establishment, to back an old Etonian - perfect.

My only concern? The manifesto was a bit wonkish.

People largely do not want to run their own public services - or their airlines or mobile phone companies either. They just want to be able to choose from a range of reasonably priced alternatives that actually work.

The Tories need to hammer home their message of better management, more choice and lower taxes. My old friend Steve Hilton has done great things with the Conservative brand, but there are limits. Few people who want communes are going to vote Tory.

Bell Pottinger Public Affairs MD Collins is a former Conservative Party comms director and has served in the shadow cabinet

IAN WRIGHT - Liberal Democrats

A difficult week for Labour, although it ended in better shape as a result of its manifesto launch. A strong start for the Conservatives too, whose National Insurance contributions story and tax proposals dominated campaigning. They also cleverly leveraged the credibility of other brands to bolster their own standing. Hence the drip, drip of big-name companies to support the NI campaign. Hence the meeting at Warburtons. Hence Ian Botham and Michael Caine. Politicians have no credibility? Borrow it from someone else.

For the Lib Dems, it has been a solid and effective week. Nick Clegg has produced impressive pictures from his tour. He has drawn plaudits for being the only major party leader to continuously meet and engage with real people. One concern remains the disproportionate coverage of the Con-Lab battle in the printed media. But this period has a real feeling of phoney war. The lines for the rest of the election will be drawn definitively in the first leaders' TV debate.

Wright has advised Liberal Democrat leaders Paddy Ashdown, Menzies Campbell and Nick Clegg.

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