The two faces of John Major

Polls have encouraged Labour to turn up the heat, writes Rob Brown

The Labour Party's pre-election advertising campaign entered a Major new phase over the weekend when its strategists unleashed a fresh poster blitz pinning the blame explicitly on the Prime Minister for the Tories' vulnerable record on taxation.

Having branded the Tories with responsibility for a string of tax rises and raised the spectre of VAT on food, the critical focus is being tightened on Mr Major. Honest John is being called a two-faced liar.

Labour's ad agency had hoped to run an even more personalised and negative campaign, portraying the PM as a spineless, dithering version of the Mr Men. Contrary to initial press reports, this cruel idea was vetoed not by Tony Blair but by trustees of Roger Hargreaves, the creator of this children's cartoon.

Although disappointed by that refusal, the agency BMP DDB feels its alternative could prove just as effective. Three 48-sheet posters branding the Conservative leader as a two-faced liar will have high visibility nationwide from today. Labour has bought what is known in the trade as the "Benetton package" - prominent, quality sites throughout the country.

The assault comes as a fresh independent survey has revealed that Labour's ads are packing considerably more impact among former Conservative voters than scaremongering slogans such as "New Labour, New Danger".

A poll conducted earlier this month by Opinion Research Business for the stockbrokers HSBC James Capel found that only 8 per cent of those who have strayed from the Tories since 1992 have been persuaded to reconsider their political allegiance by M&C Saatchi's attempts to demonise the opposition.

More than half (55 per cent) say the campaign has made no difference while 37 per cent say it has made them even less likely to vote Conservative.

The ORB/Capel poll found that two anti-Tory messages devised by Labour - "Next time VAT on food" and "22 new taxes" - were recalled by more voters than any created by the Conservatives, including the infamous "demon eyes" attack on Tony Blair, which was recalled unprompted by just 12 per cent of the survey sample.

These results reflect the findings of a focus group convened recently by the Financial Times in conjunction with the ad agency FCB. Both obviously delight BMP DDB, which was re-entrusted with Labour's political advertising shortly after Mr Blair became leader.

Its chief executive is Chris Powell, whose younger brother Jonathan is Mr Blair's chief of staff. (Another sibling, Charles, was Margaret Thatcher's top foreign policy adviser, but he even pronounced the family surname differently: Pow as in toe.)

Having slipped from favour in the bitter aftermath of the 1992 election defeat, Chris Powell and his pro-Labour creative chums are firmly back in favour. The Labour account is handled by a small unit drawn from BMP's 350-strong staff and a few other sympathisers from elsewhere in adland. They operate under a higher degree of security than their colleagues, many of whom are Conservatives.

BMP is Britain's fifth-biggest agency and boasts an impressive portfolio of blue-chip clients.

As the election could be called any day now, BMP has a range of posters and plans for party political broadcasts locked away in a secret vault at its headquarters, a converted building near Paddington Station that was built by the Great Western Railway.

Convinced that its campaign is on the right tracks, it is expected to stick with the same economic theme all the way to polling day

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Technical Director / Digital Director / Development Director

£75 - 85k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Technical Director / Digital Director / ...

Guru Careers: International Project Coordinator / Account Coordinator

Circa £26,500 DOE: Guru Careers: An International Project Coordinator / Accoun...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Cambridge / London - £47,000

£40000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing ...

Sauce Recruitment: Sales Executive - Consumer Exhibition - 12 month Fixed Term Con

£20000 - £22000 per annum + up to £22K + commission : Sauce Recruitment: The ...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen