Mission Impossible: work for the Tories and stay cheerful

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The Independent Online
The 20-year partnership of the Conservatives' two most famous ad-land strategists is being strained as they face their most testing task: selling John Major's Tory party, writes Stephen Castle.

Sir Tim Bell, it seems, is for positive campaigning; Maurice Saatchi has been working on the negative, anti-Labour pitch which crystallised last week under the slogan "New Labour, New Danger".

A source said Sir Tim had been in a "foul mood" all last week: "It either means he's been upset that the launch didn't work, or that he thought it was a great mistake in the first place." Sir Tim has masterminded the "Yes it Hurt, Yes it Worked" campaign to persuade voters that the pains of the past four years have been rewarded with economic recovery.

Last week saw a dramatic switch of Conservative tactics, including an admission from a senior source that previous campaigns had failed. A spoof Labour document, "The Road to Ruin", was launched to much media criticism.

Rumours that Sir Tim had opposed the timing of last week's blitz were dismissed by his allies. But senior Conservatives concede that there was a lengthy discussion, with powerful voices arguing for a continuation of positive campaigning throughout the summer. Sir Tim appears to have won agreement that positive campaigning will continue beside the negative push, expected to resume this week with an attack on the sums behind Labour's pledges.

Sir Tim and Mr Saatchi have played an important role in Tory election successes since the 1980s.