The Conservative Party is likely to hold a pitch to find a new
agency in the run-up to the 1999 European Parliament elections after
William Hague, the new Tory leader, formally severed the party’s links
with M&C Saatchi this week. Senior Tories believe the party will manage
without one until then.
The split was predicted in Campaign (2 May) after a string of
hard-hitting anti-Labour ads were vetoed by the then party leader, John
Major, and party chairman, Brian Mawhinney, to the frustration of Lord
Hague’s decision to appoint Lord Parkinson as Mawhinney’s successor
prompted some Tory insiders to predict that M&C Saatchi would be
retained. Parkinson was chairman when the Tories enjoyed their biggest
victory in recent times - a majority of 144 in 1983.
However, Parkinson is expected to stand down before the next general
election and Hague is determined to make a ’fresh start’ in all aspects
of the party’s operations.
’The Saatchi days are over,’ one senior Tory source said. ’The
relationship has come to a natural end.’
Tory allies of Lord Saatchi said they were not surprised by the
But they said ’deep ties’ remained and it would be wrong to assume he
would not play a part in future Tory campaigns. They pointed out that
the party and agency split after rows during the 1987 election, but
reformed their partnership in 1992 after the Tories had used Allen Brady
Marsh in the 1989 Euro elections.
Meanwhile, Alan Duncan, a Tory vice-chairman and one of Hague’s closest
allies, has launched an overhaul of the party’s communications.
Conservative Central Office will model itself on the Millbank media
centre which played an important part in Labour’s victory on 1 May. ’We
have to learn lessons and modernise the party,’ a senior Tory said.