A leading media researcher has told a conference that the Government’s communication strategy during the war on Iraq was “unprofessional”.
Roman Gerodimos of Bournemouth University said: “They moved from selling the war to selling a strong Prime Minister making unpopular decisions.”
He said in the run-up to the war the media focus had changed from the threat of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) to links with Al-Qaida and finally to regime change.
“The Government’s communications strategy was unprofessional. However, this did not stop them from winning the war – at the moment the perception is that they won.”
Gerodimos analysed 128 media articles between September 2002 and March 2003. Articles in September focused on the threat of WMDs and did not call for regime change.
Links between a “war on terror” and “war on Saddam” began to appear in November and humanitarian arguments did not appear until February. By March the media had shifted from the question of whether there should be war to debating whether it would have UN backing.
Gerodimos said it was “increasingly important for the political parties to tailor their messages according to the individual audiences, but also to be consistent about the overall big theme of each campaign”.
Civic movements “raised the stakes” for Tony Blair and forced the Government and armed forces to be more accountable during the war.
Speaking at the Political Studies Association annual conference, Gerodimos said: “There has clearly been a shift in the rhetoric of the Government – the moral humanitarian argument became the argument for the professional leadership of the Prime Minister and the moral authority of the Prime Minister to make decisions.”
By Judith Cate and Stewart Halforty