Thursday, 25 March 2010

Are the Saatchis "Change" we can believe in?

To which election argument is the Conservative Party most vulnerable?

"Same old Tories". That's the view of Tory chairman Eric Pickles, without needing a moment to think when asked the question.

So how do the Conservatives deal with may be turning into the longest wobble
in election history?

They call in Maurice and Charles Saatchi.

"We have had a relationship with the Tories for the past 32 years so it seems natural", say their people.

As the Political Scrapbook blog notes, the Saatchi's role is bound to be seen as an embarassing public rebuff to continuing 'lead agency' Euro RCSG, to whom we owe all of that airbrush entertainment. And quite a coup for Clifford Singer and the MyDavidCameron spoofsters, somehow still bedevilling the Tory campaign two months on.

So commuters around me are reading the 'Tories turn to Thatcher ad men' on the front-page of the Standard, above the DON'T PANIC splash headline "Cameron calls in Saatchis as lead vanishes".

Maggie stalwart Tim Bell's explains the strategic logic behind the party seeking to recapture its '80s glory days:

At last, the Conservatives are starting to use professionals who have actually won elections before. If M&C Saatchi can produce the kind of brilliant work that we did, it will have a dramatic effect on the election outcome. This will frighten the other side.

Frighten? Or bewilder? Or delight?

The coverage shows just how much the Labour Isn't Working legend retains enormous resonance in the folk memory of the political classes. Yet "New Labour, New Danger" and Demon Eyes 1997 have inoculated Labour against the fear that the Saatchis have a magic bullet which works even when the Tory party can't quite work out what its argument or message is.

Inside, those iconic images of 'Labour isn't working, the Tax Bombshell and Demon Eyes feature under the headline "Brief is to tear lumps out of Brown".

Bell also says that the Tory mistake in recent campaigns was:

"Trying to be liked".

So welcome back the Nasty Party too?

Team Cameron does nothing when it comes to PR and image management without much forethought. One can only surmise that they think this will be a welcome morale boost for the troops, perhaps calculating that undecided voters simply aren't going to notice or think anything of it.

Maybe. But Labour will surely be chuffed to bits at a symbolic reinforcement of its central message - that, whenever the pressure is on, the Tories don't reach out but retreat to the Thatcherite comfort zone. Of course, that really matters when its about the big decisions on the financial crisis and the recession. But that same thing is true of the process issue of who makes the ads too is a handy reminder.

Perhaps this is more evidence for Cameronism as a masterclass in political ambiguity - more evidence that what he stands for is what Tim Montgomerie calls "the politics of and".

He has his ProgCon adviser in Steve Hilton - and his tabloid-focused pub ready right-wing adviser in Andy Coulson.

Does he now have one ad agency to do his sunshine positive messages - and then the Saatchis to put the boot in?

And will all of this help or hinder the problem that people are still not very clear what David Cameron really stands for?

Surely a deeper ProgCon strategy would have turned not to Maurice Saatchi, but to Trevor Beattie.

But what really matters is the brief: authenticity.

If you can fake that, as the old joke goes ....

But if you can't ....

1 comment:

Robert said...

And for labour the call is of course, whats the difference....