Can Blair ever win back the trust of the electorate? We ask the experts

Peter Kellner, chairman of the polling organisation YouGov

The professionalisation of Labour has made them seem less authentic. So what Blair has to do, and what he has to tell his ministers to do, is act naturally. Voters will respond to authenticity even if it's a bit ragged. Trust is the most vital of all political commodities, and it is far easier to lose than to gain. The closer someone is to the public the more he or she is trusted. People trust their doctor a lot, a hospital administrator not much, and a minister not at all. There's a lesson in that for Blair.

Lord Bell, chairman of PR firm Bell Pottinger and formerly Margaret Thatcher's election adviser

The trust has gone, and I don't think there's anything Blair can do about it. The problem is that Labour is addicted to lying. Just look at Alastair Campbell. No 10 was denying he was going even as it was recruiting his replacement. Blair is an actor, and it's screamingly obvious when you think about all the things he once said he believed in which he now doesn't believe in. If I were offered a contract to rebuild the Government's image I think I'd give it back. Maybe they could try to sustain being honest, and if they did it for long enough they might recover some trust. Blair should resign because he lied to us over WMD - that's pretty serious.

Bob Worcester, chairman of Mori market research

There's a very sharply declining level of satisfaction with the performance of the Prime Minister. It's down to 31 per cent. That compares with Thatcher at her lowest, of 25 per cent, and Major, at 18 per cent. But a year ago Blair was at 50 per cent, and two years ago 70 per cent. However, his solace is that Iain Duncan Smith is at 21 per cent, and you don't beat somebody with nobody. Broadly speaking, the Government will go into the next election looking like it does now. And they'll win it. But Blair should stop spinning. Two examples: why is the Government telling us they are only idle rumours about Campbell going when he'll be gone in the next six weeks? And why "pencil in" an election for October 2005? Any Prime Minister knows he needs his head examining if he calls an election in October. Blair's got to realise that it's all backfiring on him. Trust can be lost precipitously, but can only be won back glacially.

Ardi Kolah, director of the Institute of Public Relations

If the Prime Minister loses the people's trust it's extremely difficult to rebuild it. Having said that, I think Blair honestly believed what he told us about WMD, and I think he had reasonable grounds for doing so. But maybe he didn't do enough to explain to people why he believed what he did. I think now he's got to take a step back, let the Hutton inquiry run its course, and let the facts speak for themselves. Being frank, open and honest are the cornerstones of good PR. But politicians are very bad at admitting when they are wrong. The inquiry may yet exonerate Blair, but if things go against him he may not survive.

Max Clifford, leading PR consultant

I've been a big supporter of Blair since day one, but I do think he's lost the trust of the British public. There's a lot of doubt out there and it's wholly to be expected because the WMD situation has been handled very badly. Most people think the Government has been economical with truth. There is still more support for Blair than anyone else. It's just that we we once trusted him a lot more than most politicians, and now he's only a little above everybody else. The business with his wife and Carole Caplin and Peter Foster has contributed to that. Blair needs to use the media better, especially television. It would also be a very good thing for Blair to have a major difference of opinion with George Bush, just to show that Blair really is his own man.

Interviews by Simon O'Hagan

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