London, July 7: The Conservative Party launched a campaign yesterday to bury once and for all the idea that Tony Blair is a “straight kind of guy” as it unveiled a poster of the Prime Minister as Pinocchio, the compulsive liar.
Tory insiders said the aim was to contrast Labour claims that it had had “no plans” to raise taxes with their own figures showing they have risen by 50 per cent since Blair came to office. The poster shows his nose stretching next to the statement: “We have no plans to increase tax at all.” It says: “You can help us to stop it growing any bigger.”
In 1997 Blair defended himself in the cash-for-favours row over a £1 million donation to Labour from Bernie Ecclestone, the head of Formula One racing, by saying he regarded himself as a “pretty straight kind of guy”.
The Tories plan to continue questioning Labour’s honesty with new figures that they say prove that ministers have misled the public about how many departmental targets have been met. While the government claims around 90 per cent of targets have been passed, the Tories say the figure is closer to 50 per cent.
Michael Howard, the shadow home secretary, said: “Labour are damaging the public services and pressuring the civil service to misrepresent statistics. Taxes have gone up 60 times but Labour’s targets regime is in chaos.”
Yesterday Theresa May, the Conservative Party chairman, confirmed that the Tories were considering scrapping their traditional symbol — the flaming torch — as part of a radical “re-branding” exercise ahead of the next election.
The review is being pushed hard by Paul Baverstock, the Conservatives’ new director of strategic communications, who believes the Tories will stand a chance of winning power only if they sharpen presentation and play on the contrast between Iain Duncan Smith’s down-to-earth approach and New Labour’s spin. But Baverstock is keen to avoid modernising the party’s image in a way that too strongly evokes New Labour’s presentational overhaul of the mid-Nineties.
Howard said yesterday on Sky News that the government was trying to hide its failings by abandoning its targets.