Election '97: Media Watch: First Tory TV pitch targets changelings

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The Independent Online
The Conservative Party made an undisguised pitch for the Essex man voter in its first Party Election Broadcast of the campaign last night.

With four more broadcasts to come from the Conservatives, five from the Labour Party, three from the Liberal Democrats and a number from fringe parties, broadcasters are predicting that an electorate already bored with the campaign would be turning away from broadcasts.

The broadcast was less hard-hitting than its previous film of a woman crying red tears to a background of news reports about a Labour Government. But it did continue the theme of looking to a future under Labour.

The Party asked nine actors to imagine they were taking part in a futuristic vox pop one, two or three years into a Labour government. They were then to improvise to camera the problems they would be living under, supposedly unscripted.

Each actor was fortunate to come up with a set of worries that match exactly what the Tories want to raise in the mind of undecided voters: can you trust Blair on the economy?

"It was a difficult decision because I voted Tory before," said a woman in her twenties filmed in front of a stark tower block.

"But I thought they really had learned their lesson, the Labour Party, the Tories had that slogan ... 'Britain is booming - don't let Labour mess it up' and I thought no, they won't do that, Blair won't do that. But they have."

The broadcast, which was finished on Tuesday by the Conservative's advertising agency M&C Saatchi, also tried to subtly take on the sleaze factor: "Like most people we thought fresh blood, you know," said a man in a leather jacket. "We believed all that stuff about the government running out of steam and sleaze ... and well it seems the further we get into the Labour term the more it was just change for change's sake you know."

The actors chosen represented what the Tories think ordinary people look and sound like.

The accents were all Estuary English - flat, slightly cockney. The women were overly made-up with their hair dyed or straggly, a couple of them were overweight. The only man in a suit and tie was wearing a decidedly threadbare jacket while two of the men wore leather jackets.

These were not sleek County Tories. Each actor was filmed in front of a bleak, urban environment like a concrete shopping centre or by the barred windows of a building. Each was accompanied by lots of background traffic noise.

In between actors a black screen showed the words "After one year of a Labour government" while a low-level wind, which one observer described as "the sound of a nuclear winter", whistled.

The Conservative Party hopes that the language used by the actors is the language being used in pubs now by people making up their mind how to vote.

It is convinced by focus group research that there is still a substantial part of the electorate who have doubts about Labour returning to tax and spend policies.

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