Tory advertising isn't working: public asked to create new posters

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Indy Politics

They are the political party who, more than any other, have used the power of advertising to win elections. They even boast as their co-chairman the advertising mogul Lord Maurice Saatchi.

So it came as a surprise yesterday when the Conservatives appealed to the public for ideas that could win seats in June's local elections.

The party announced an open brief to create the successor to its ground-breaking "Labour's Not Working" campaign of 1979 and asked members of the public to create posters and a 30-second television advertisement that could form the centrepiece of spring's pre-election publicity drive. Dr Liam Fox, the party's second co-chairman, said anyone could submit ideas to produce an "authentic" message that would reconnect people with politics. The party, which will not pay for the ideas, hopes people will try to make a name for themselves, tempted by the chance to see their work on prime-time television.

The brief for the campaign is "Let down by Labour", the slogan that will underpin the Conservative campaign for the local government and European elections on 10 June. Officials hope the best entrants will be used on poster sites and form a 30-second clip in one of the party's election broadcasts.

Will Harris, the Conservative marketing director, said voters were clearly turned off by present campaigns and the party was looking for a way to reengage them. He said: "We want to find people who are interested in becoming the next Maurice Saatchi and write the next 'Labour isn't working'."

Dr Fox said: "People are looking for authenticity in politics, not political clichés. You can just imagine how proud the successful people will feel when they see their ideas put into action.

"The British people feel greatly let down by Labour. That is why the June elections provide people with an opportunity to send this government a message. Maurice Saatchi and myself hope that our new campaign will re-engage the public with politics, giving them the opportunity to show the country how Labour has let them down personally."

The Tories say although they will not pay for any ideas, they hope new designers and copywriters will be keen to take up the opportunity. "This idea is genuinely groundbreaking," Dr Fox said. "It will allow the public to express their disillusionment with the Government in their own words and ideas."

A Labour Party spokesman said: "No amount of Saatchi and Saatchi gimmicks can obscure the Tories' agenda of cuts, charges and privatisation."

The "Labour Isn't Working" poster produced by the Saatchis in 1978, which helped propel Margaret Thatcher to power, featured a picture of a large snaking dole queue and struck a chord around the country.

Labour took the bait by complaining the queue was of actors, not the unemployed, but the controversy drew further attention to the nation's problems in a winter of discontent.

In 1996, the Conservatives produced a poster of Tony Blair with demonic eyes with the slogan: "New Labour, New danger", but failed to prevent him sweeping to power.