Join the Mailing List
Enter your name and email address below:
Subscribe  Unsubscribe 
Free Mailing Lists from

The despatch box

We're you thinking what the Conservatives were thinking? Did you believe the Lib Dems were the real alternative? Is Labour moving forward not back? This blog will focus on all things political. It will be irritating, agitating and maybe just maybe it will get you thinking.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

What's in a name?

An interesting point was made by Mark O'Brien in the post below which once again raises the issues of What's in a name?

When you come across people who say "I like you - but you're not really a typical Tory - and I don't like the Tories" and all the persuasion in the world can't convince someone to vote for you - then along with policy there needs to be a wholsesale examination of what people feel when they hear the word "Tory" or "Conservative" an idea I suspect Andrew Lansley who has advocated the possibility of a name change could well support.

I've worked for two of the most trusted brands in the country (One has lots of little red vans with letters in, and the other is where you will probably go to get your prescription from)- and while working for the first one the "powers that be" decided in their wisdom to change their name.

You wouldn't believe the media outcry and indeed the outcry from MPs of all sides - with the upshot being the new name was dumped little over a year after it was introduced. Yes we need policy - and a leadership election will help focus the party's minds as to where it thinks it should head.

We all know that Coca Cola will not let its adverts appear in magazines if the editorial on the page next to their ad isn't seen as complimentary to their brand. Brands these days are worth millions and are very persuasive in convincing people to buy something, or to give people a feeling of trust.

Little things can have big impacts. I advocated a change in the name of Central Office a couple of years ago - and was so pleased that (if reports are true) Lynton Crosby changed the name to Campaign Headquarters - because that's what it is.

I am the first to admit that political parties are not the same as companies - but brand values do play a part in politics. Now are we actually a "conservative" party - or are we reforming, progressive and forward thinking - words that actually are sometimes very much in conflict with the "Tory" label which in Northern parts of the country is used to beat us about the head.

If we were starting from scratch post the 2005 election I wonder what name the branding experts would chose to call our party. A name that would fit in with the policies and ideas we

The question is - does the party need a new name?


  • At Sunday, June 12, 2005 10:36:00 pm, Blogger Mark O'Brien said…

    There is a serious danger that we'd slip into a false sense of security if we changed our name. It's wrong to think people will start to like us if we did that, because far too many people would continue to use the word 'Tory'. I use the word 'Tory' quite a lot because it's easier to say! What's more, the way my accent has mutated after an upbringing on a council estate and in a private school both at the same time, I sound a lot more of a toff when I use the word 'Conservative'.

    You speak of how no amount of persuasion can convince voters in the north to vote for the dreaded 'Tories' but what we need are more people who aren't the kind of 'typical Tories' that we in the north detest. We need younger people who don't give the impression that they've spent one day too long at Eton, and who aren't part of the metropolitan elites - because the modern Labour Party is dominated by people like that.

    We need the kind of policies that appeal to people who wouldn't necessarily vote for us. The Adam Smith Institute has argued for a flat-rate income tax of 22% with a personal allowance of £12,000. A foolish party would trumpet the '22%' bit (foolish, because this bit is what appeals to the rich, already Tory-voting pockets of prosperity in the south). A clever party would proclaim the size of the generous personal allowance, because it would mean anyone earning under £12,000 would pay no income tax - imagine the electoral dividends from that investment!!

    Most importantly of all, we need the confidence (and maybe the defiance) to be able to walk through Labour heartlands, and when we do the last thing on our minds should be our name.

    My electoral dream would be to turn vast swathes of the urban north blue. It can be done!

  • At Sunday, June 12, 2005 10:52:00 pm, Blogger Jonathan Sheppard said…

    The party does need younger people. The party also needs different people too. That goes right down to Councillor level where representatives have historically (from all parties) been made up of retired people - or those with enouh money to do it as a bit of a hobby.

    I have been a member of the party for 15 years (half my lifetime) I have been a parliamentary candidate twice, an Association Chairman and an adviser to an MP - yet am probably still half the age of the average member.

    After three consecutive election defeats I'm not sure the party will find it easy to ever have a false sense of security so it shouldn't as political parties should never takes voters for granted.

    What it does need is a sense of urgency to do exactly what you say - get out there and explain to people why Labour has let them down and in areas where it hasn't traditionally been prepared to go and campaign.

  • At Monday, June 13, 2005 12:39:00 pm, Blogger Serf said…

    We need to repeat something similar to Kieth Joseph's evangelising prior to the Thatcher government. It needs to be done using people that typical anti Tories can relate to and we have to keep at it until the image changes.

    Imagine the impact of picking up a few previously totally safe Labour seats in the North of England. That would in itself help recast the Conservative image.

    It would also make Labour fight for every seat.

  • At Monday, June 13, 2005 2:10:00 pm, Blogger Mark O'Brien said…

    Two thoughts crept into my head last night. Firstly, about the name: I once heard someone comment that Rudy Guiliani and his staff were once talking about the idea of school vouchers. They were debating what word to use instead of vouchers, but Giuliani simply said, "Our opponents are going to call them 'vouchers' so we should too." And that's the truth. A name change would be a distraction. Labour would put up posters saying 'New name; Same old Tories'.

    And another point: I wonder if there's a good reason why parties ignore poor areas in their election campaigns - so that the leaders and their parties don't become associated with deprivation and poverty. It's a sickening thought, but a plausible one.

  • At Monday, June 13, 2005 2:25:00 pm, Blogger Jonathan Sheppard said…

    Opponents will always choose to sling dirt in election camopaigns. there will inevitably be posters saying new leader same old policies too come the next election.

    On the point about not going into certain areas - I think it is the Lib Dems who are most guilty of this. Their strategy of only working in select target seats means that they failed to put any literature at all out in some seats (which will be highlighted when their candidates lodge their election expenses) yet they attempt to claim to be a real alternative.

  • At Monday, June 13, 2005 4:19:00 pm, Blogger Mark O'Brien said…

    I've written on my weblog about the Liberal Democrats before. It's noticeable how - despite some inner city and university seats gained this year - their share of the vote and sometimes their hold of the seat has been taken away this time round. Seats which have been held by the Lib Dems since 2001 or 1997 are moving back to their rightful owners (usually the Conservatives). I think this is largely because people simply feel let down by the weak and inadequate people that they will always be! But the Liberal Democrats are winning up in the north. They have pushed the Conservatives into third place in many urban constituencies, largely by reducing the Labour vote, but also by taking away the Conservative vote. Throughout the north of England, Conservative candidates actually lost votes this year. That is a worrying thought and proof that we have become the party of the south. We can not claim justification for being the official opposition - never mind Her Majesty's Government - unless we attempt to capture seats throughout the north as a priority.

  • At Monday, June 13, 2005 4:21:00 pm, Anonymous Cllr Iain Lindley said…


    That goes right down to Councillor level where representatives have historically (from all parties) been made up of retired people - or those with enouh money to do it as a bit of a hobby.

    Quite. At 22 and still (I think) the youngest Conservative Councillor in the country, there are members on the Labour benches opposite who must be nearly four tiems my age. It's all very well me saying that Council meetings and hours need to be more worker- and family-friendly (if I didn't work for the Party - and I don't wish to long-term), but if we want a sea-change the Party needs to take the hard decision to make those changes in areas where the elected members who aren't up to it (and it's not always about age, by any stretch) are our councillors.


    They were debating what word to use instead of vouchers, but Giuliani simply said, "Our opponents are going to call them 'vouchers' so we should too." And that's the truth.

    I agree with your sentiment, but not with your example. A name change would be a distraction, but you can get away with "renaming" a policy set-piece. Witness Brown's "tax credits" (ie, benefits) or the old University grant system - a voucher system by any other name, but don't mention that to the Socialist Campaign Group! ;)

  • At Monday, June 13, 2005 4:22:00 pm, Anonymous Paul Robinson said…

    You need to turn trackbacks on, or move to a system that supports them. Here's my take:

  • At Monday, June 13, 2005 6:26:00 pm, Anonymous Paul Robinson said…

    Crikey. I put up a post, and then some anonymous coward from here comes along, tries to do a Conservative PEB and implies I'm trolling. If that person had read the rest of the site, they might have realised that I oppose *all* political parties, not just the Tories. So, calm down. At least leave your real name next time. Or is this the New Tory Way?

  • At Thursday, June 16, 2005 2:56:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am unconvinced that changing a name does much good - especially not in politics where old names like Tory stick (even after the party called itself conservative back under Peel and tried to change it to Unionist in the early 20th century). It's not like being in a business manufacturing widgets where people foregt about you - there are umpteen different models on offer and those preferring Tony's widgets don't loathe you in the same way that they tend to in politics.

    Labour failed to lose the election and we failed to do anything sufficiently different to give people a strong enough reason to vote for us. I fail to see how a facile name change relates. Do we really wish to copy Labour's obsession with style over content?

    Mark from Croydon

  • At Thursday, June 16, 2005 10:03:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Let's be bold - Can't we improve both style and content at the same time.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Top of the British Blogs Call me!