BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: Politics  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Relaunching the Tories
Artists impression, supplied by Conservatives, of the conference set
This year's conference will be more 'inclusive'

The relaunch is the Holy Grail of modern politics.

Party leaders dream of transforming the public's perception of their worn-out policies and over-familiar faces with a single stroke of an adman's pen.

In the early 1990s, Labour succeeded in discarding its downmarket, cloth cap image, to re-emerge as a modern, forward-looking brand with mass appeal.


The Tories should look at what happened to Labour in 1987

Chris Powell, Labour's former adman

But the process was a long-drawn out and bloody one, which threatened to split the party in two.

Now Iain Duncan Smith is attempting something equally, if not more, dramatic with the Conservative Party.

Mr Duncan Smith believes people have come to view the Tories as out-of-touch and "weird".

The only route back to electoral success, he argues, is to convince sections of society previously alienated by the party that it is human after all.

He has spoken about reaching out to the gay community, ethnic minorities and women and tried to portray the Tories as a potential friend to the downtrodden and "vulnerable".

This year's party conference in Bournemouth will be the biggest test yet of this new strategy.

Wasting his time?

But Chris Powell, chairman of advertising agency BMP and the man who created Labour's advertising at four successive general elections, believes that without radical new policies to back up the rhetoric Mr Duncan Smith may be wasting his time.

Chris Powell
Mr Powell says Duncan Smith lacks charisma
"The Tories should look at what happened to Labour in 1987.

"The party changed its communication strategy, but it made absolutely no difference to the electorate because the policies had not changed."

Without something definite to back it up, "it is just frippery," Mr Powell argues.

'Bemused' Tories

Labour had to spend the early 1990s proving its economic competence before it became electable, Mr Powell said.

But the problem he sees for the Tories is that he says they have failed to carve out their own distinctive policy area.

The success of Tony Blair's "big tent" politics, his colonisation of the middle ground in politics, has left them "bemused".

"They just seem to have no idea where to go," he said.

"Normally, the clever trick in marketing is to work out which way the market is going and to place yourself there," Mr Powell told BBC News Online.

"But there is no sign that the Tories are doing that.

"You will never convince the public that the Tories are the compassionate party.

'Lacking charisma'

He went on: "The Conservative message has always been 'it might hurt, but it works'.


I think this will have a huge impact on their self-confidence, regardless of whether the media pick it up cynically or straight

Lord Bell, Tory public relations guru
"Until they get a clear economic philosophy, it is just pointless trimming.

"It is not good enough to say 'and we care too'. It will have no effect."

Mr Powell advised Iain Duncan Smith to get back to the traditional Tory stronghold of "lower taxes and self-determination" rather than "getting into some weird discussion with the middle classes about compassion".

Attempts to project a more open and accessible image would also be undermined by Iain Duncan Smith's lack of charisma, he said, and his "stiff and monotonous" speeches.

Boosting Tory morale

But Tory peer Lord Bell, the public relations guru who helped mastermind successive election victories for Margaret Thatcher, believes Mr Duncan Smith is on the right track.

If nothing else, he argues, the new approach will be good for morale.

"I think it is important for the party to become self-confident.

"And I think this will have a huge impact on their self-confidence, regardless of whether the media pick it up cynically or straight."

The British people have always cared about the disadvantaged, Lord Bell argues, so it makes sense to emphasise this.

'Council house' voters

"Old warhorses" such as Nicholas Soames and Norman Tebbit, who have called on the party to stop talking about women and ethnic minorities, were "living in the past".

Lord Bell
Lord Bell thinks Tebbit is living in the past
"The Conservatives have tended to assume the battle is about the middle classes. It isn't.

"There is no earthly reason why people living council houses shouldn't vote Conservative.

"In 1979, our marketing campaigns were aimed at C2s."

'More inviting'

Lord Bell said the UK was now a such a "prosperous" nation that the old battlegrounds between rich and poor no longer existed.

"Voter power and empowerment has grown - and that is not just the invention of Tony Blair.

"There is no doubt that, in that context, the Tory Party has been seen as remote and out-of-touch.

"George Bush in the US made a breakthrough with more compassionate conservatism.

"William Hague, for whatever reason, failed to connect with the voters, to achieve any chemistry.

"I think Iain has an opportunity to get the Conservatives back in power and I think he is doing the right things," Lord Bell told BBC News Online.

Many ordinary people had suffered under Labour, he argued, and "they have to have somewhere to go.

"The Conservative Party has to look more inviting to them."

See also:

02 Sep 02 | Politics
14 Aug 02 | Politics
09 Aug 02 | Politics
04 Jul 02 | Politics
04 Jul 02 | Politics
11 Feb 02 | Politics
05 Feb 02 | Politics
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


E-mail this story to a friend



© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes