June 6, 2013, by Zoë Goodwin
Picturing Politics: the 1997 Labour manifesto
Picturing Politics, a blog produced by the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham is host to a series of audio and video clips featuring academics commenting on the political significance of a diverse range of images.
The third post features Professor Steven Fielding discussing the rise of party leaders and their power to influence their party’s fate. He uses the 1997 Labour manifesto which features a close up of Tony Blair’s face on its cover and talks about the effect this focus had on the Labour Party.
Professor Fielding starts off describing how leaders of Britain’s political parties have long been treated like celebrities and how parties have exploited this by selling themselves through their leaders.
With a decline in people’s interest and knowledge of politics, many voters started to define their attitude to a party through its leader and what they imagine to be their personality.
In 1994, the Labour Party felt that Blair, being young, not bad looking, well-spoken and from a respectable home life, could get their party back into office for the first time in 15 years.
Blair was rarely seen with his jacket off or his tie casually askew. He embodied the claim that Labour had been transformed from the party of the 80s, the loony left into a new party, the affluent classless suburbs of the future and of hopeful change.
And this is why Blair’s face came to dominant Labour’s manifesto in 1997, to many he was the Labour Party.
Professor Fielding goes on to explain how this merging of Blair’s image and the Labour Party worked very well for some time but how when Blair’s reputation became tainted, so did his party.
The clip ends with the transition to Gordon Brown, showing that in the same way leaders can lift up their parties, they can also drag them down.
Listen to the full audio clip here.
The full list of Picturing Politics blog posts are available here.