How to win the election in (Saatchi) style

Saatchi & Saatchi was credited with winning the 1979 election for the UK Tory Party, and branding the Thatcherite project in the 1980s. Strategic planner Craig Mawdsley advises the party leaders on how to smarten up their image for the general election 2001.

Tiffany Jenkins

Topics Politics

Saatchi & Saatchi was credited with winning the 1979 election for the UK Tory Party, and branding the Thatcherite project in the 1980s. Strategic planner Craig Mawdsley gave Tiffany Jenkins a rundown of his advice for the party leaders on smartening up their image this time round.

Craig Mawdsley’s advice:

To all of you

Understand this to begin with. Politics has moved from being primarily a vision and leadership game to a battle of research. Each of you is playing the same game. You try to understand where people are and then position yourself half a step ahead of them, so you can be seen to be responding to their needs. But you need to define which sector of the British psyche you want to ally yourself with and then act accordingly.

To Tony Blair (Labour)

You have a massive advantage here. New Labour appeals to more people than any other party. Hence you can comfortably associate with mainstream British values that most people would nod their head to. Take hold of the big issues and remind people how well you’re doing – despite the odd industrial drama, most people have jobs, a decent standard of living and associate your government with that.

When everybody seems to be against you, remember this – the British are at their best in adversity, but turn into inveterate whingers during times of prosperity. Indulge them in this. Show that you care about the railways, the schools, the pavements, whatever else they may be worried about. You probably have plans to help with most of this stuff, but don’t expect people to suddenly rejoice as a result. Worry about what they’re moaning about – as long as it’s not the economy then you’re in good shape and should sleep soundly at night.

Don’t forget that your key advantage in responding to people’s concerns is that you’re one of them – you’re a husband and a father and people warm to you as a result. Don’t make them doubt this by talking in marketing speak or being too slick or packaged. Don’t be afraid to show that you’re fallible, but always show that you care.

Listen to: David Gray

Drink: Whatever everybody else is having

Wear: Something comfortable

To William Hague (Conservative)

Okay, the centre ground is gone and Blair seems to be winning on most of the things the mainstream British people care about. There’s only one way forward here, and that’s to become the party of mean-spirited, spiteful Englishness. This enables you to have a sneering and cynical reaction to virtually anything the government comes up with, making debates much more fun. Nobody ever became successful in politics by appealing to people’s better natures, so by that criterion you should be lined up for a landslide victory.

Cultivate a doubtful raised eyebrow and a devastating shrug of the shoulders to deploy when being asked about various government initiatives. Refrain from looking on the bright side and take any opportunity to look down on the prime minister’s transparent attempts to cosy up to foreigners. Make it clear that you don’t want any of their strange foreign foods and stick to fish and chips when spotted eating in public. Reinforce the borders, lock up the criminals and never ever let the facts deter you from reinforcing deeply held prejudices.

Refuse to see anything good in the future and hark back to the past and the good old days. Challenge the government about why the weather isn’t as good as it was when you were a child and ask them why people have to lock their doors at night and learn foreign languages. Then you stand a chance of winning the hearts of the English.

Listen to: Elgar

Drink: Tea

Wear: Flat cap and barbour

To Charles Kennedy (Liberal Democrats)

You’re going to lose, so it’s time to have some fun at everybody else’s expense. The only possible course of action is to lurch wildly to the left and then try to pick up some of Labour’s cast-off policies in order to confuse their backbench MPs and core voters.

Please make things more interesting for us by being passionately in favour of the single currency, nationalisation of the railways and redistributive taxes. You need to appeal to the British tolerance of the eccentric by tossing in the odd policy like the legalisation of marijuana. You can adopt the persona of the slightly mad uncle who is tolerated over Christmas and ostracised for the rest of the year. Your colourful opinions will provoke debate and give journalists something to write about.

Just please don’t play it safe – the middle ground is already taken and you have nothing to gain from being a pale imitation of Tony Blair. Give us a reason to listen to your political broadcasts by throwing in something surprising each time – just for fun. In this way you have the chance to put the interest back into politics and get people engaged again (just to see what you’ll come up with next) – don’t blow it.

Listen to: Eminem

Drink: Tequila

Wear: Red

Craig Mawdsley is a strategic planner for Saatchi & Saatchi

Saatchi & Saatchi sponsored the conference The Changing Face of the People, organised by the Institute of Ideas at London’s National Portrait Gallery on 3 to 4 March 2001.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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