Maximum Impact 17.03.06

MY BELIEF is that if Labour wants to win the next election then all they have to do is to ensure that Tony Blair remains as Leader.

And many behind-the-scenes people at the Labour Party are starting to think the same thing.

Talking to journalists and, more importantly, members of the public, I’m getting the distinct impression that Labour’s fortunes are starting to turn for the better.

The Daily Mail’s campaign to force Tessa Jowell to resign seems to have run out of steam and David Cameron’s honeymoon period with the media looks like it’s coming to an end.

David Cameron’s first 100 days PR campaign has been an undoubted success, but the results of Wednesday’s Guardian ICM poll shows voters are switching back to Labour.

In February, Labour’s popularity sunk to a nine-month low, but in recent weeks they have re-established their lead over the Tories. The Tories have dropped three points to 34 per cent, but Labour has gained by the same amount, taking it to 37 per cent. This position is virtually the same as the last General Election.

Having recorded a programme for BBC TV on politics and spin this week, I am reminded how PR is playing an ever-increasing role in the world of politics. To me, politics is becoming ever more like the entertainment world, with personality and image being far more important than reality and substance.

Tony Blair’s recent appearance on Parkinson reminded me and the nation just what a great performer and entertainer he is.

Predictably the media were highly critical of this PR charm offensive, but that’s of little importance. In my view it would have worked extremely well for the vast majority of the British public, and this is far more important than a lot of people realise.

It was seen as a gauge of his popularity and has convinced a lot of the movers and shakers in the Labour Party that he must stay if they are going to win the next election.

I’m aware that a lot of people behind the scenes in Labour are trying to persuade him to change his mind and stay on because it’s clear that Gordon Brown isn’t quite the person in the public’s eye that they thought he was.

Put simply, a beauty contest between Cameron and Brown is probably going to be won by Cameron.

Even when the next election approaches Cameron will still be perceived as the head-prefect up against Blair’s established headmaster role. Up against Gordon Brown however, that’s a very different matter.

Gordon lacks Tony’s charisma and personality, two vitally important qualities in winning the personal popularity contest that the General Election has become.

Blair and Murdoch remain very close and it would take an awful lot for that to change.

So David Cameron’s best chance is to set out in his next 100 days the start of a PR campaign to establish him as an experienced statesman. This involves many things, including being seen to mix and mingle with as many world leaders as possible.

Gordon Brown’s job to become the next Prime Minister is, in my view, even more difficult. He needs a personality and charisma make-over without anybody realising that’s what is going on.

So good luck and may the best performer — and their PR team — win.

The fee for this column is donated to the Rhys Daniels Trust

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