How to judge the success of an advertising campaign while wearing a leaky hat

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When Labour won the election in May (more than six months ago! that means it's only a bit more than four years to go to the next election!) they were jubilant, as well they might be.

"We've done it!" they cried. "We've actually done it!"

But done what?

It has always struck me as curious when a party greets an election victory as an achievement, or a performance, or a valiant deed, because the party itself has done nothing - it is the electors who have done the hard work. Oh yes, the party has done the campaigning, the promising and the talking, but that is not what parties are primarily for: parties are for governing and running a place. It is what happens after an election that matters, not before. It's just that you just wouldn't think so from the way the winning party shout: We've done it!

In a funny sort of way, the Tories got it right. When the size of their election defeat became clear, they handed it to Labour for the way they had fought the campaign. Brilliant strategy ... great image-building ... wonderful communication - all this the Tory party conceded admiringly. They never said they thought that New Labour would be good at forming a government and running the place, only that they were good at winning elections. It was like an advertising agency applauding an advertising campaign run by a rival agency.

What do I mean - it was like it? It was exactly the same! When it comes to an election, each party is an advertising agency. We bought the Labour slogans, and we bought the product. The product sounded good, and sounded hopeful. It sounded as if it would work better than the old model, the Tory one that we had been using for 13 years, and which was getting chipped and rusty and was developing strange rattles. Better to trade the old Tory model in for the New Labour model ...

And now that has been done, and the first signs are beginning to appear that when they got the New Labour model out of the box, and plugged it in and started it working, it had a few strange rattles as well. Well, madam, of course there are - it's a new model and it needs to run itself in; you always get a few strange noises with a new government; after all, it's bound to squeak a bit if it's squeaky clean! No, seriously ...

But it happens all the time. We are always falling in love with an image and then running up against the reality.

Not so very long ago my wife got an Orange telephone because she was working for a month in a place where there was no public phone. Fine. Then she brought it home. This wasn't such a good move. In the valley where we live you can't receive or send messages on Orange phones, so it became useless. We wrote to Orange explaining why we would like to discontinue our use of an Orange phone. After a while they wrote back, saying they had been trying to phone us, but with no luck ...

Virgin is another firm with a shiny reputation, but when my wife and I booked a transatlantic flight with them this summer, we had an extremely disappointing trip (food running out before everyone had been fed, etc, etc).

Yes, I know everyone says how good their experience with Virgin has been - I can only tell you what happened to me, and that is what most of us relate to.

For instance, when I bought an Australian Driza-Bone hat ("the legend of the bush") during a wet visit to Wales, I was quite prepared for it to start letting the rain in one day, sooner or later. What I didn't expect was for it to become sodden and start leaking on my head the very first time I wore it. It has leaked ever since, so that I now only wear my Australian Driza-Bone hat when it is sunny, which is somewhat self-defeating.

Nor, recently, after I took my trusty old Saab to the Saab garage for an expensive service, did I expect the trusty old Saab to completely seize up a couple of days later, especially not at 1am on the outskirts of Cheltenham ...

Maybe I have just had a run of bad luck.

Maybe the god of humorists is putting a few duff experiences my way as what he thinks is great material for an article or two.


Personally, I blame the Government.

The Comment Editor apologises for inadvertently reprinting Miles Kington's Monday column in yesterday's editions.

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