Labour poster turns Cameron into a cult hero

The Milibands' attempt to portray Tory leader as a throwback to the Eighties backfires spectacularly

Rather like Gene Hunt's 1984 Audi Quattro if it were driven on the streets today, Labour's first poster of the 2010 election campaign backfired yesterday with its portrayal of David Cameron as the Ashes to Ashes cult TV character.

The cabinet minister brothers and potential Labour leadership rivals David and Ed Miliband unveiled the image of the Tory leader alongside the words "Don't let him take Britain back to the 1980s."

The poster, designed by a 24-year-old Labour activist as part of a competition organised by Labour's advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, was intended to warn voters that, under a Tory government, the country would revert to the days of strife and unemployment of the Thatcher decade.

David Miliband said: "It was a very different Britain. It was a meaner, more brutal Britain. David Cameron joined the Conservative Party in the 1980s because he admired much of what Mrs Thatcher was doing."

The former deputy prime minister John Prescott said: "Our poster makes Cameron look like a second-hand car dealer trying to flog a clapped-out Thatcherite banger of a party."

Yet Labour strategists apparently did not account for the huge popularity and cult status of DCI Hunt, played by Philip Glenister in the BBC TV series, and the Tories scored the latest victory in the election poster wars.

Across political blogs and on Twitter yesterday, Tory activists were jubilant that Mr Cameron had been portrayed as Hunt.

Even some Labour supporters were dismayed. The leading left-wing blogger Alex Smith, of LabourList, said the image made the Tory leader "look cool, young and fairly modern" rather than a dangerous 1980s throwback.

Within hours, the Conservatives responded with their own image of Mr Cameron as the snakeskin-booted detective perched on the bonnet of his car. It carried the words: "Fire up the Quattro. It's time for change."

The Tory poster was designed yesterday by Euro RSCG, which was last week replaced as the party's principal ad agency by M&C Saatchi.

The Labour poster was designed by Jacob Quagliozzi of St Albans. Robert Senior, chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi, had praised Mr Quagliozzi's design as one that was "brutally simple" and "captures a lot in very few words".

Labour, whose election funds are paltry compared to the Conservatives', launched the competition in an apparent bid to save money.

The poster skirmish handed a victory to the Tories after a bitterly fought week between the parties over tax and spending.

As the build-up intensified to Gordon Brown's expected announcement on Tuesday of the election date, the Miliband brothers made a pitch for the youth vote when they made their first campaigning appearance together. The event, in Basildon, seemed designed by Labour to portray the pair as the party's next generation.

Meanwhile, Peter Mandelson, the Secretary of State for Business, suggested Mr Brown might not serve a full five-year term if he won on 6 May. Setting out the choice before voters, he told The Times: "They either go five more years or four or three, or however many it is, with the person they know they can depend on, or switch horses mid-stream before we have fully come through the recession, and in doing so take a heck of a gamble."

Advertising wars: Angels and demons ... when campaigns falter

Labour's Gene Hunt poster isn't the first time a political advertising campaign has backfired.

In January 1997, the Tories unveiled a poster, designed by Steve Hilton, now Mr Cameron's head of strategy, to kick off John Major's campaign. It depicted Tony Blair with "demon eyes", with the warning "New Labour, New Danger", but it was heavily criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The debut poster, from Euro RSCG, in the Tories' 2010 campaign showed an apparently airbrushed Mr Cameron next to the slogan "We can't go on like this – I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS." The poster inspired hundreds of spoofs.

M&C Saatchi's opening shot were posters showing a grinning Gordon Brown next to slogans such as "I took billions from pensions – vote for me." However, viewed from a distance, the image of a smiling PM perhaps did not convey the right message.

Jane Merrick

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee