British General Election 2005

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The British General Election 2005 was held on May 5th.

Labour's campaign

The Blairite neo-liberal Alan Milburn MP is Labour's general election coordinator. According to the Daily Telegraph, Milburn "has been told to launch a television and poster advertising blitz in the New Year and to put the party on a war footing under the campaign slogan 'Britain Is Working'". [1]

In late November 2004, in an apparent prelude to the forthcoming election campaign, Labour launched a new campaign called Proud of Britain. This exercise in flag-waving feel-good patriotism was criticized in sections of the media as an attempt to steal the Conservative party's clothes. [2]

The party's advertising agency for the run-up to the general election campaign is TBWA/GGT [3].

Labour MP Fraser Kemp is vice-chairman of Labour's election planning group, and has been described by The Guardian as "Labour's Lib Dem-basher in chief" [4].

Blair recruits former Clinton strategist Mark Penn

In late January 2005, The Daily Telegraph revealed that Tony Blair had

"secretly recruited a new American polling guru in an attempt to win over more traditionally Tory voters in the run-up to the general election. For the past few months, the Prime Minister has been taking direct advice from Mark Penn, a Washington-based strategist who helped to mastermind the re-election of President Bill Clinton in 1996... Since the late 1990s, he has built up a powerful consultancy in Washington whose clients have included American Express, BP, Coca-Cola, KFC, McDonald's, Nike and Pizza Hut. At least three of the companies on Penn, Schoen & Berland's client list – Hilton International, Marriott International and Mirage Resorts – have close links to the casino industry – an issue that has prompted attacks on Labour because of its attempts to liberalise Britain's gambling laws." [5]

Alan Milburn and the Bradford foundation hospitals fiasco

In a speech in mid January 2005, Alan Milburn vowed that Labour would use a third term to implement more controversial 'reforms': "There is no change without controversy. But there is no prospect of social justice without... Reform is not a process that starts one day and ends the next. It must go on and on and on... change is often a controversial thing" [6].

Yet a recent New Labour 'reform' has already caused chaos for NHS patients in west Yorkshire. Milburn is the architect of the Government's controversial Foundation Hospitals scheme, which critics allege is a cover for NHS privatization. Legislation for the scheme was pushed through in early 2004. Unfortunately for Milburn, and the people of Bradford, by early 2005 the scheme already appeared to be unravelling, with an embarassing shambles at the Bradford Foundation Trust. The trust managed to run up an £11m deficit within less than a year, and the regulator Bill Moyes responded by appointing a US-based firm of troubleshooters who wandered the hospital asking questions like "How many dollars does this operation cost?", and charged Bradford £160,000 for their services [7]. The trust's chairman, John Ryan, who was sacked by Moyes, claims he has been scapegoated for the failure of the foundation trusts policy [8].

TBWA distances itself from allegedly anti-semitic Labour campaign ads, blames Campbell

In February 2005, a row erupted over allegedly anti-semitic Labour campaign posters. One showed Tory leader Michael Howard and shadow Chancellor Oliver Letwin as flying pigs. Another showed Howard in the guise of Shylock or Fagin. Both Howard and Letwin are Jewish. Brand Republic later reported that "TBWA has distanced itself from the two anti-Tory ads... Initially the work, which was not officially released, was attributed to TBWA. However, according to a spokesman for agency chairman and creative chief Trevor Beattie, the Fagin/Shylock ideas are the work of [Alastair] Campbell." [9]

Blair at the Labour manifesto launch: no "arbitrary limit" on private sector involvement in the NHS

According to the Evening Standard (via the BMA's Health policy debate roundup), "At the launch of the manifesto Health Secretary John Reid suggested there would be a limit on private operations. 'We don't need any more than seven or eight per cent'. But he was corrected by Mr Blair, who insisted there would be no fixed cap. He said, 'We want to expand NHS capacity. We are not going to set an arbitrary limit on whether you need to go outside the NHS'." [10]

The Conservative Party's campaign

In October 2004, Lynton Crosby was appointed as the Conservative Party's General Election Campaign Director. Crosby is one of the principals in Crosby/Textor, the Australian affiliate of the U.S. Republican opinion polling company Wirthlin Worldwide, and a longtime campaign director for the conservative Liberal Party of Australia. [11]

The Saatchi-Crosby feud

However by December 2004, friction between Lynton Crosby and the Conservative's co-chairman Lord Saatchi had become embarassingly public. According to The Age,

"Lord Saatchi, the party's co-chairman, appears to have taken a particular dislike to Mr Crosby... Last weekend, The Times reported that Mr Crosby had told Mr Howard that Lord Saatchi's philosophies were '20 years out of date', and concluded that Mr Crosby had superseded the role of Lord Saatchi and his party co-chairman, Liam Fox. When Mr Crosby flew home to Australia this week for Christmas, Lord Saatchi circulated an email to party staff, announcing: 'The Times reported some disobliging comments about Liam and I by Lynton Crosby. Lynton is apologetic for the remarks attributed to him and we have accepted that. In these months before the general election, we're all in the privileged position when our private thoughts are a matter of public interest. It is never a good idea to badmouth your colleagues, so if you do harbour unkind thoughts about others - which I hope you don't - please keep them to yourselves.'" [12]

In late January 2004, The Times reported that "Mr Crosby was said to have been thunderstruck when he read Lord Saatchi's email." [13]

The same Times article also revealed a fundamental difference in strategy between the two men:

"Lord Saatchi... believes that the Tories should fight to win, or at least deny Labour a majority. Mr Crosby has concluded from the party's private polling, showing Labour with a comfortable six-point lead, that the Tories cannot win the next election, expected on May 5. He believes that Mr Howard should concentrate on a face-saving attempt to increase his strength in Parliament by 25 to 30 seats." [14]

Election News Controversies

The BBC admitted to equipping a group of hecklers with microphones and giving them entry to a Michael Howard campaign event. Tory leaders whipped up an official protest of the BBC's attempt to "generate a false news story and dramatise coverage." [15]

Rumoured dates for the general election

The date for which Blair will call the general election has been the subject of speculation in the British media since autumn 2004. Rumoured dates have been:

February 2005

In early November 2004, widespread news reports claimed that a snap poll could be held as early as February. According to The Scotsman, Labour Party officials "insisted that May remained the most likely time for the poll." [16]

May 5th 2005

In mid-November 2004, The Guardian claimed that May 5th was the most likely date, with the convenient abbreviation 5.5.5 [17].

June 16th 2005

In mid-December 2004, The Guardian reported that "The coming general election could be held as late as June 16 and not, as most MPs in all parties have been expecting, on May 5, senior ministers are privately warning colleagues." [18] The article mentioned three possible reasons why Tony Blair might choose June 16. The later date could:

  • "allow Mr Blair to test the electoral water (always risky) in council elections in May".
  • "let the chancellor's budget largesse percolate well into pay packets".
  • "dilute the student vote in key marginals such as Cardiff Central where Labour's Jon Owen Jones has 20,000 truculent student voters, most of whom scatter to other places in June".

SourceWatch resources

External links

The Labour Party's campaign

The Conservative Party's campaign