3. The Campaign


The 1997 election campaign was unusually long. Prime Minister John Major hoped that six weeks of intense media scrutiny would undermine Tony Blair’s popularity. Instead the campaign only highlighted divisions within the Conservative Party over Europe and further exposed its problem with ‘sleaze’. Labour’s campaign was primarily designed to resonate with voters who had supported the Conservatives since 1979 and to reassure them they had nothing to fear from a Blair government. Blair promised to keep within Conservative spending plans during the first half of his government and maintain the top rate of tax across the Party’s entire term. As a result, some Labour members wondered what Blair offered to the party’s traditional supporters. When in power, however, Chancellor Gordon Brown found ways to fund public services.

Collection Items

1. New Labour ... New Everything!
Blair believed Labour lost the general election in 1992 because voters thought the party was still run by the leftwing. So he changed Labour’s constitution and policies. His most effective change was calling the party ‘New Labour’. Even the…

2. Labour left nothing to chance in 1997.
Events were exclusively designed for the media so as to guarantee the most favourable coverage for the party. In this photograph Tony Blair is surrounded by a carefully selected group of sympathetic nurses, pensioners, children and young parents.

3. Five Pledges
Labour’s campaign was effectively reduced to five Pledges, which featured heavily on the party’s posters and advertising. Some pledges aimed to attract long-time Conservative voters, with promises on reducing crime and taxes. Others appealed to…

4. Labour's Tax Pledge
To reassure those who feared Labour would not be able to manage the economy, Blair promised to keep within Conservative spending plans during the first half of his government and maintain the top rate of tax across the Party’s entire term. When in…

5. Because Britain Deserves Better
Tony Blair, jacket informally cast aside, tie askew in a relaxed way, smiling, and looking optimistically upwards, was deliberately presented as the very model of a modern party leader.

6. Britain deserves better
D:Ream’s hit song Things Can Only Get Better was Labour’s campaign song. This poster echoes that optimistic – if vague – promise of a new start after 18 years of Conservative rule.

7. Labour Party manifesto
The extent to which Tony Blair had become the face of Labour was confirmed by his portrait dominating the party’s manifesto. Blair was incredibly popular with millions of voters and personified how far Labour had changed and was now in touch with…

8. New Labour, New Britain Oasis cover issue
Belonging to the ‘rock ‘n’ roll generation’ and a former lead singer of the band Ugly Rumours, Blair had a special appeal to some of Britain’s most popular musicians. Exponents of ‘Brit Pop’ like Noel Gallagher of Oasis saw in Blair a sympathetic and…

9. Tony Blair and the cast of Coronation Street
Ever since it became Britain’s most popular TV soap, politicians of all parties have visited Coronation Street. Tony Blair was therefore following a long established tradition by posing with the cast, including keen Labour supporter Liz Dawn (who…

10. Mike Gapes, Labour Party, Election leaflet, 1997
Local Labour candidates echoed the party’s national strategy of appealing to disillusioned Conservative voters.
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