Isabel Hardman

How the Conservatives turned Labour’s attack dog into their PR agent

How the Conservatives turned Labour's attack dog into their PR agent
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Here's a clever way to get more exposure for your political slogan. You say it so often in speeches, press releases and planted questions from the whips that it seeps everywhere, you start dreaming it, and your opponents get very cross indeed. Then your opponents accidentally say your political slogan while all mithered. Then they get a bit jealous that it's popping up in every single piece of government literature so they complain about this political slogan, which they mention, again, thus ensuring it reaches more and more and more people.

Bravo to an opposition that stays calm in the face of a barrage of 'long-term economic plans' designed to goad them and signify to voters that Labour has a short-term, wibbly sort of plan and only the Conservatives can finish the recovery. The last thing Labour would want to do would be to start repeating the slogan in an angry voice.

Which is of course exactly what Labour has done this afternoon. Michael Dugher has written to Sir Jeremy Heywood (who is currently investigating two cabinet ministers who are too busy scrapping to say 'long-term economic plan' the requisite number of times) demanding an investigation into whether government communications are inappropriately using Conservative party messages. Dugher writes:

'I am writing to express concerns that taxpayers' money is being routinely used to promote the Conservative Party’s messages.

'The Civil Service have made promotion of the Government’s “long term economic plan” a priority, devoting taxpayers’ money and considerable civil service resource to the cause.'

Whoops! He said it again. In the next line, Dugher quotes the Government Communications Plan which contains the evil phrase once again. And then he mentions it again. And again. All in all, Dugher manages to pump out 'long-term economic plan' 11 times, which is a score even ambitious ministers who really want a lot of gold stars on the PM's reshuffle chart would struggle to match.

Labour's attack dog then says that 'in light of the obvious public interest in this matter I am releasing a copy of this letter to the media'. Which is handy, because while Dugher might have been pursuing a perfectly reasonable line of inquiry, he's now getting written up as complaining that 'long-term economic plan' is plastered everywhere, thus reminding everyone who reads the newspaper coverage of who is claiming to have that plan. Even those of us who are growing a little weary of hearing this phrase have to congratulate the Conservatives for managing to deploy one of Labour's best attack dogs as their own PR agent.