Re-Branding Or Re-Tooling?


Jonathan Foreman has a strongly negative view of the Tory re-branding efforts over at FrumForum:

That the party leadership had absorbed the marketing men’s contempt for voters was all too obvious in the Conservatives wretchedly patronizing advertising campaigns. That Cameron and Co. had little apparent understanding of the needs of ordinary people – and were obsessively concerned with the good opinion of small but influential metropolitan elites –  was reflected in their inability or unwillingness to engage boldly with issues like law and order and immigration that could well have won them many votes in the Labour heartland.

It is possible that the Tories, having squandered their lead in the polls earlier this year may still win a majority tomorrow. But if they do, credit is due less to their own efforts than to the failures of their opponents.

I don't think this is that far off-base, but I do know that the Tory brand was in such terrible shape five years ago that even if they had the best and clearest policies in the world, no one would have voted for them. That's why Cameron dedicated himself so passionately to a new image before new policies. The context of this election is three previous elections in which the Tories were creamed, when the rump of MPS had become almost as unhinged as today's GOP, when the Conservatives had begun to seem like an anachronism in a far more multicultural, diverse and restless society that Thatcherism had unwittingly spawned.

This in fact was the great irony of British conservatism in my lifetime.

Thatcher campaigned on smaller government, lower taxes and social conservatism. But the vibrant economy that followed did more to undermine traditional England than anything Labour could have done. Small towns became dependent on nationally branded super-stores, migrants and immigrants poured in, gays became mainstream, the environment became a consensus national issue, cosmopolitanism sank deep into even the most traditional of places. Re-branding was essential if the Tories were going to survive at all in the Britain they had themselves created.

Some of this led to mushy marketing nonsense. But the idea of a campaign that would have appealed mainly to Daily Mail readers and former Labour voters upset by the number of Poles in their neighborhoods was a non-starter. For a long time, I favored a strong Thatcherism as a vital formula. But it was tried three times and failed catastrophically. It made my friend, the immensely gifted and capable William Hagie, an electoral loser of historic proportions. The only reason the Tories have an uphill shot today is that the huge Labour majority that still endured after 13 years - a function of long Tory irrelevance - is such a steep hill to climb.

Besides, the Tories have offered the most credible commitment to fiscal sanity in the near future - and that, in this climate, is enough.