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When the election arrived, poster campaigns were in full swing. The Conservatives led with “Britain is booming – don’t let Labour blow it” and Labour struck back with the slogan “Britain deserves better”. Labour began with positive messages drawn from Tony Blair’s “five pledges”, in an attempt to counter the negative campaigning perceived by the general public. A later Conservative Campaign, featuring the slogan “New Labour, New Danger”, as well as Tony Blair with Demon eyes, was seen unfortunately as yet another form of negative campaigning.

The use of political posters is certainly one of the more creative parts of, and some of the best images of, a campaign and it’s issues, and are used as a historical reference for many political campaigns. The provide some of the most hard hitting images, and as we can see with the brief examples above, can work either positively or negatively toward a campaign’s goals. The Conservatives produced the most controversial poster of the campaign showing Tony Blair sitting on Chancellor Kohl’s knee.

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Several Conservative immediately denounced it s “puerile”, and “abhorrent”, and produced yet another negative episode for the Conservatives, showing just how powerful these communications can be. Celebrity Endorsements Labour used celebrity endorsement to a great degree, more than Tories. Business leaders such as Anita Roddick of Body Shop and Richard Branson lended their support, providing many excellent photo opportunities and further enforced the value of the party to one of the most skeptical target audiences, the business community.

Clever use of “personality politics” gave Labour an advantage among opinion leaders, and while trying not to be too obviously linked to any big names in the entertainment world, used endorsement to launch their policy for Lottery money for the Arts and health and education. Use of endorsement by opinion leaders shows us how a “two step flow” model of communication can work extremely well in influencing the masses by showing that these opinion leaders “are doing the right thing, so why shouldn’t you? ” The advantage for the celebrity being closer links with what may eventually be the government in power.

The Results At the end of the campaign, with most major communication that each party wished to make complete, the results were already quite starkly obvious. Closing opinion polls showed a huge swing toward Labour, and even “The Sunday Telegraph” went with the headline “It’s all over, admit Top Tories”. Initial forecasts were for a victory with a majority of between 60 and 80. Tony Blair was confident of being about 10 per cent ahead, and the Lib Dems were confident of major gains as well. The media could see a Conservative defeat on the horizon, and ran several stories about Tory Leadership struggles.

Conservatives themselves banded together to maintain a common front as disaster loomed. The BBC and ITN’s exit polls confirmed the swing to Labour, and the 1- per cent swing emerged as one of the biggest swings in results since the war; Seven Cabinet ministers were defeated, and by the end of counting, Labour had won 418 seats, making a majority of over 179, and a clear 12. 5 per cent lead over the Conservatives. On Friday 2 May, 1997, Tony Blair became the fifth ever Labour Prime Minister. The results alone show how important coherent and effective communication is to a political campaign.

The examples shown here, at every point describe how failures in Communcation and strategy by the Conservatives, along with an unfavourable set of circumstances led to an unprecedented defeat for the Conservatives, and how a coherent, well planned and coordinated set of messages and tactics such as those used by Labour produced a massively successful campaign. The facets of political communication indeed are complicated ones, and are no more complicated for politicians than at election times; the importance of clear and useful communications becomes obvious in a situation where the political process becomes a “battle for survival”.

Bibliography

The British General Election of 1997 – Butler & Kavanagh (1997) On Message – Norris, Curtice, Sanders, Scammell & Semetko (1999) From Soapbox to Soundbite – Rosenbaum (1997) Part 3 – Creative Work Rationale I have decided for this section to produce a series of Labour and Conservative campaign posters based on current issues for the next General Election Campaign, (to be hold in 2005, and called at the Prime Minister’s discretion, usually in the first part of May.)

As part of the task, I decided to do a little “updating” to the styles of each of the parties, and how their posters advertise. (For acknowledgement, these are based on previous poster designs somewhat. ) I decided to try to update the image of the Conservative Party somewhat by renaming it “Conservative Millennium” – trying to give the party a more 21st Century image, and making a new logo to give the party’s corporate image a fresher look.

Since an old image for a long time has been the thing that has made the Conservative Party “unelectable”, I felt a few modernising changes to the way it presents itself might go toward making it more “electable”. I then decided to tackle the content of the posters themselves. Having seen some of the previous posters in Conservative and Campaigns, I decided to make the content more punchy, and tackle issues much more directly. I did not want to start mudslinging or using character assassination, but provide a critique of the Labour party’s state and/or policies, using today’s political issues as a reference.

In the case of NewLabour, I decided that since they would probably feel that they have a successful formula communication-wise, especially considering their previous two election victories, that there would be no major change in the image of the party or how it presents itself. I then decided to again produce some content for the posters that would hit home the dangers of voting in the opposition, along the lines of previous Labour and Conservative advertising, the New Labour, New Danger Campaign being of particular reference.

With this task, it was my hope to explore the facets of modern political communications, using one of the most recognized and most accessible communication forms that political parties use today. It has taught me that while political parties can use advertising or one form or another to promote their goals, they must strike an acceptable balance, and keep a strict commitment to the truth, otherwise risking political ridicule and legal entanglement.

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