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Friday, 1 June, 2001, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK
Getting personal - does ridicule work?

Labour's latest poster ridicules Tory leader William Hague, despite Tony Blair's insistence that he wants to concentrate on policy, not personality.

Labour claimed their market research showed that 95% of the people who saw the poster laughed.

Former Prime Minister John Major has accused Blair of hypocrisy and said Labour were running a "dishonest and juvenile" election poster campaign.

During the last election, the Conservatives singled Tony Blair out in their poster campaign showing him with 'demon eyes'.

Does such negative advertising put you off, or do you think it adds fun to the election campaign?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

The big parties have unlimited resources and rich sponsors to finance large publicity campaigns, drowning out the views of small parties

Simeon, Salford
Since Hogarth ridiculed politics through his prints, we have been able to enjoy in this country the use of media/art to express ideas that are satirical. The downside is that the big parties have unlimited resources and rich sponsors to finance large publicity campaigns drowning out the views of small parties like Socialist Alliance. What happened to Socialist Labour who believe in a three day working week and legalising soft drugs? If the under 25's knew about that I bet they would vote then!
Simeon, Salford

I think that these kinds of posters add humour to the election. They are a great read.
Nikolas Gouloumis, London,England

Hilarious how worked up the Tories are over this. Come on TBWA let's have another one. How about a bald-headed Thatcher. That really would be offensive.
Matt, UK

So it is OK to put out a poster showing a pregnant Mr. Blair but not OK to show Mr Hague blending into Mrs Thatcher? I am not too sure that I understand the difference. Can anyone enlighten me?
Maggie, Walton-on-Thames, England

Hague has obviously had a charisma bypass

Gary Dillon, Harlow, England
It is a sad fact that image is everything to today's society, but it is a fact the labour party is right to take advantage of. Hague has obviously had a charisma bypass at some time in his life, so ridicule is a tactic perfectly suited for use against him. This does not really reflect badly on the labour party (it is good politics, politics that the Tories would be just as likely to use if they could get away with it). If you don't like the tactics employed then don't chastise the labour party, instead look to yourself and think about how often you judge by image and work to change that. We are (after all) the people who respond to this kind of rubbish. Get down off your high horse because politics is simply what you make it.
Gary Dillon, Harlow, England

What lessons do the emerging democracies in the world draw from all this? That a little humour here and there is ok, or that smear campaigns are fine if they bring results?
George, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

A poster of William Hague with Maggie's hair isn't scary. The thought of William Hague, Anne Widdecombe and Michael Portillo being in power definitely is!
Chris Ransom, Colchester, Essex

Isn't it hilarious how worked up the Tories are over this. Come on let's have another one.
Matt, UK

I agree with Alistair Campbell that these things are humorous. In fact I would envisage a poster with Mr Blair, the ventriloquists dummy, sitting on Alistair's lap and holding a lead with Mr Kennedy sitting on the floor. Hague would be contributing my saying "you don't want to do it like that", a great poster campaign for the Apathy Party.
David Morris, Basingstoke, UK

And you wonder why the 'apathy vote' continues to increase. The two main parties are running a puerile campaign, spending most of their time slagging each other off rather than providing the electorate with some definitive, achievable and electable policies that we can measure them by during the next government. I find it hard to recall just what legislation 'new' Labour actually achieved in their time in power. Perhaps it's time for the electorate to create the manifestos we want, get the various parties to state how they will/will not provide them, and we vote on their promises.
Richard Philips, London, UK

We cannot let anyone bring back the Thatcher years - like the picture that's too scary to contemplate

Julie, North West, UK
This poster made me laugh and laugh but I think there is a serious message behind it. We cannot let anyone bring back the Thatcher years - like the picture that's too scary to contemplate.
Julie, North West, UK

Coming from the world capital of negative campaigning, the USA, this is truly mild. At least the attacks are not as personal, rather over policy and ideology. In the US, the campaigns are usually negative, personal and gross distortions of the truth. Unfortunately, they will never cease as the main goal of a politician is to get elected, at just about any cost.
Tom V, USA

Thought the picture of Hague with a Thatcher hairdo was a hoot!
Mark Hall, Trafford, Manchester

I am amazed as I am shocked by these ridiculous posters. The Labour party claimed to be above this puerile yet dangerous kind of electioneering when the Conservatives tried it last time. I would accuse Mr. Blair of double standards, and of doing what he has steadfastly claimed he would not: focussing this election on personalities rather than concrete politics. Is this a sign of what is to come in Labour's likely second term? Keep the nation sweet as long as it stops them from thinking seems to be a corner-stone of 'New' Labour strategy.
Fraser Crawford, Erskine, Scotland

I think the Tories should dress Prescott as Henry Cooper giving a defenceless person a punch.
Aziz, England, UK

This is a simple but effective way of showing that Hague is a Thatcherite. No doubt Hague will privately think the euro is "repugnant" also. To be honest I would say it is much of the Conservative policy of the past 20 years that has been repugnant.
Chris, Scotland

It's all so much horse-feathers

Maurice Thomas, Wiltshire, UK
It's all so much horse-feathers. The fact that William Hague claims to drink fourteen pints a night qualifies him for a Denis wig, not a Maggie wig. Thatcher did more harm to this country than any other prime minister in history, and I for one am glad Blair has chosen to remind us of the dangers of voting far right. Not that I will be going for the soft-right alternative that Labour now offers.
Maurice Thomas, Marlborough, Wiltshire, UK

So according to Labour sources 95% of people who saw the poster laughed? I don't suppose they counted the number who were laughing at them? While it is certainly funny, it says very little for a government who are trying to fight a campaign on hard issues and policies. I think it will take a lot more than a pretty picture to convince the masses that Labour deserve their vote for a second term in office.
Ric Brackenbury, Ostróda, Poland (UK citizen)

I agree totally with Mr Forbes Cunningham (I like that name, Forbes): This shows a lack of education. I think that this "negative campaign" may make people realise just how little Labour has changed. This makes Kinnock turn in his (political) grave. This kind of negative canvassing is too low even for the Americans!
Peter Bolton, UK in US

The Tories and Labour are both as bad as each other

Emma, Hertfordshire, UK
The Tories and Labour are both as bad as each other when it comes to things like this. Personally I thought it was funny and I'm not juvenile, I just have a sense of humour. My vote will not be based on that poster, but if someone wants to vote for Labour due to this that's their choice. If you don't like it then that is your choice. There are other parties you can vote for. The British public needs to get out of this "I must vote for Tory or Labour" attitude and vote for who they feel has the best policies for them and the country.
Emma, Hertfordshire, UK

I'm deeply shocked. Deeply. How can anyone not enjoy that poster? For goodness sake, get a life! The Hague/Thatcher poster is one of the funniest I've seen, and one that really gets people thinking.
Paul, London, UK

After the "demon eyes" poster, I'm a bit surprised that the Tories are suddenly opposed to these tactics.
Joe, Brussels, Belgium

I love a good set-to, I think it livens up the campaign!

Jay, Camberley, UK
Hey, look it's their money to hurl around so I guess they can do as they please. I love a good set-to, I think it livens up the campaign and Labours poster like it or hate it, is absolutely spot on! If they had said something libellous then granted it would be wrong but it gave me a chuckle! Come on boys on both sides, let's have some more of the same!
Jay, Camberley, UK

There are 2 kinds of negative campaigning - poking fun and scaring people. Poking fun is fine, but scaring people with lies is not.
Andrew Torrance, Edinburgh, Scotland

I think this new poster campaign is so childish! Is this who we are going to put in charge of Britain? Is this what politics are all about? If they are no wonder most of the people I speak to are not voting, they should be focusing on if they are going to get voters out not performing stupid childish rubbish like these posters
Gillian , Glasgow, Scotland

It is disgusting that any party feels the need to be so rude about its oponents

Fred Leeson, Birmingham, England
I think it is disgusting that any party feels the need to be so rude about one of its oponents. I feel the Labour Party has done itself no good by this jape.
Fred Leeson, Birmingham, England

It may be considered "juvenile" and "stupid" but the Hague/Thatcher chimera poster is brilliant and will motivate the anti-Conservative vote. Just to be helpful the Tories wheel out the old Harridan, in full mad-staring form on the day New Labour release the picture!
David Wrede, Fife, Scotland

Yes, the poster is quite amusing - but this is supposed to be a serious election campaign, about serious issues affecting everyone's lives. In my own campaign, it's more important to give people reasons why they should vote for me - not reasons why the others are no good!
Graham Soult (Lib Dem Candidate), Newcastle, UK

I thought the Maggie/Hague poster was a stroke of genius! All these people whinging about the lack of policies and honest debate? We remain one of the most deferential, anti-intellectual and myopic nations on earth! Good lord everyone. All these "broken principles" all of a sudden. Shame on you for loosing your sense of humour!
Guy, London,UK

These puerile antics should not be part of any election

Duncan, Chicago, US
There is a time and a place for everything and these puerile antics should not be part of any election - particularly a General Election. Are they so devoid of original thought and bored of their policies that they have to descend into this banal and demeaning display? Do none of them have the strength of character to rise above it and set an example? No-one I know is impressed and they do themselves, their party and the country a disservice and bring the whole process into disrepute.
Duncan, Chicago, US (UK Citizen)

I am against negative campaigning. However, since Hague has given such an important role to Margaret Thatcher in his campaign, the poster just reflects reality. If Conservatives are angry, perhaps they should ask their leader to stand by himself.
Stuart, Hull, UK

The Hague/Thatcher poster is a step in the right direction. Politicians take themselves to seriously. No wonder so many voters don't want to know. Ignore them till they lighten up.
A. F. Mylam, Truro, Cornwall, UK

This shows the Labour party have got a sense of humour

Tom Skinner, Manchester, UK
I thought it was hilarious. I laughed for hours. Best poster a political party's ever come up with. A bit of a change from all that 'Labour will increase your taxes' and 'Tories will take us back into recession.' It shows the Labour party have got a sense of humour.
Tom Skinner, Manchester, UK

John Major made it quite clear that he disliked the 'Demon Eyes' poster of the last election and withdrew the poster immediately. This poster of Blair is put out with his approval. Blair is no man, he hides behind his henchmen, advisors and focus groups like the coward he is.
Ferdinand Lovetree, Wales

With the two main parties functioning on such a childish level is it any wonder that people aren't inclined to vote for either of them?
Rachel, Bath

What is an election all about? Is it about personalities or policies? OK lets have a laugh, everyone needs a laugh from time to time. As long as they get serious on the issues that matter.
Steve Chedz, Leeds, UK

What particular Labour policy does that espouse?

Hugh, UK
All this juvenile name-calling must appeal to some voters, I suppose, otherwise why would parties keep on doing it, time after time? What depresses me is the sheer hypocrisy of it all - only last week Mr Blair said he wanted to campaign on policies, rather than personalities, and this week we are seeing pictures of Mr Hague dressed up in a Thatcher wig. What particular Labour policy does that espouse?
Hugh, UK

It is this sort of campaigning that makes people apathetic unfortunately, as it doesn't do anything for anyone's policies. Granted it is amusing to associate the Tories with Maggie's ruination of this country, but I don't care about what they did, I care about what Labour wants to do. Only in knowing and agreeing with that will they get my vote.
Duncan Hill, London

Who did they canvas - the Cabinet? As a labour party activist I resent that my hard earned dosh is spent on this kind of negative campaigning. It just makes us look silly and immature - hardly the qualities to run a country. Remember Kinnock and never underestimate the British public's sympathy for the underdog.
Pauline, London

If all they can do is hurl personal insults around them I am not surprised a lot of people say they aren't going to vote.

It's childish and pathetic. How much has this education, education education cost?
Forbes Cunningham, Netherlands & UK

It would be far better for them to come up with a decent set of principles. It's quite pathetic

Philip Davies, Oxford, UK
It would be far better for the party leaders to come up with a decent set of principles for their society rather than running their smear campaigns - it's quite pathetic.
Philip Davies, Oxford, UK

Although these posters provide a bit of humour, there is no need for personal attacks on any MP. Anne Widdicombe has suffered many personal attacks that have nothing to do with her politics just her appearance. This is childish and cheapens British politics.
Peter Robinson, Southport, England

Ridicule works when it is funny and when it chimes with what people are already thinking. The Hague poster is funny, and identifies his drift to the right. The Blair poster from 97 was not funny, and the thought of Tony Blair as some evil left wing monster?
Duncan, Birmingham, UK

They're being childish. They should grow up and campaign in a responsible and mature way. I know 6 year olds who have a more adult attitude.
Alex Banks, UK, living in Holland

How else do you get a politically immature electorate to vote?

Bob, UK
Most of the population are only really interested in their wallets, not the real issues like transport, education and health, so how else do you get a politically immature electorate to vote? Use juvenile marketing to appeal to a juvenile electorate.
Bob, UK

If most of the population were only interested in their wallets then the Tories would get in. The fact that they are so out of touch is because people realise that the extra money they take home or save on fuel will soon seem pretty empty when they have to pay for private healthcare and lose their jobs or homes when the next boom/bust cycle comes around.
Chris Ransom, Colchester, Essex

I would argue whether any of the current billboard posters have any effect on the public conscious at all. In many ways I think they tell us more about the party who have published them - Labour's message is obscured by the gloss and media types trying to be overly clever whereas the Tories are trying to rehash some old ideas but to very little effect!
James d'Haussonville, London

I think Blair is really stupid to put Hague and Thatcher together. Thatcher did more for this country than any other prime minister and he is trying to get the credit for it. More fool him.
Melissa, UK




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