The controversy over The Labour Party’s “anti-Semitic” ads has taken a new turn after an advertising agency source claimed that focus group pollster Philip Gould worked alongside Alastair Campbell to create the posters showing Conservative Party leaders as flying pigs.
The claim is likely to fuel fears about the way focus group research is used in political campaigning. Some critics believe the research uses manipulative techniques to uncover insights into people’s subconscious fears and aspirations.
The ads, which were withdrawn last week, showed the faces of Conservative leader Michael Howard and shadow Chancellor Oliver Letwin superimposed on the bodies of winged pigs with the strapline “The day the Tory sums add up”.
Some Jewish leaders have claimed the ads were exploiting ingrained anti-Semitic stereotypes, as both Conservative politicians are Jewish. Another execution was accused of depicting Howard as sinister Dickens character Fagin. Labour said the ads were not anti-Semitic, but “anti-Tory”.
Labour’s ad agency, TBWA/ London, has disavowed the ads and says they were not the brainchild of creative director Trevor Beattie. A source adds: “Trevor didn’t write those, they were concepts that Alastair and Philip had come up with.”
He says that TBWA carried out production work on the ads, but the ideas were developed by Campbell and Gould. Campbell has reportedly acknowledged that he was involved in creating the ads. However, a Labour spokesman says: “We take responsibility for the posters, but will not be drawn on the minutiae of the people involved.”