Soul Love: Labour’s 70s Rebrand

Costing £100,000, the Labour’s got life and soul’ was a five week PR blitz launched on August 31st1969. 

After eighteen months of research, David Kingsley of Kinglsey, Manton and Palmer came up with the ‘soul’ theme. 

Their advertising firm had been previously responsible for a Salvation Army slogan “For God’s sake, Care”

The campaign sought to project Labour as a party ‘for idealists, a compassionate party’ directing ‘change with care’. The 1970 election would also be the first in which 18 year olds could vote. 

This was tied to the broader party message “When it comes down to it – aren’t Labour’s ideals yours as well”

At the same time, local constituency parties were issued with badges and car stickers around the ‘soul’ theme

“I’m a soul mate, mate” and “I’m the life and soul of the party” 

Gwyn Morgan, assistant general secretary of the party said “we believe that a majority of the people of this country share Labour’s ideals and want a compassionate society”

‘The free for all market place scramble may benefit the rich and ruthless but it makes no allowance for the old, the sick and the needy’

“We hope and believe that our advertisements will start people thinking about the fundamentals of politics and the reality of choice”

“The majority of people want to participate in creating a better society and we seek to convince these people that their aspirations can best be achieved through the Labour Party”

The campaign was seen as a gamble to raise support before a Summer 1970 election. It was calculated that Labour had just £130,000 left in a general campaigning fund. 

It came at a time when the party needed to boost party morale, hit by division over the Vietnam War, strikes, cuts, race relations and sterling crises. 

Figures showed that 208,000 had left the party with funds hit. 175,000 of them were affiliated union members and 33,000 rank and file. 

Without an upturn in fortunes, strategists warned the party would have to start selling investments just to fund the next election campaign. 

Total membership still stood at 5,096,625.

Wilson launched the campaign at the TUC in September. The soul message was accompanied by a harder line on pay inflation

‘Every penny must be earned. There is not escape from this truth’

Defending the campaign, Tony Benn said the founding fathers of the party would have supported it because ‘soul’ meant reflecting Labour’s concern for people as human beings as well as ‘economic animals’

When asked whether it was a pitch to the youth vote, Benn argued ‘my interest in the young is not so much in what we are to do to them but what they do to us”

In response the Tories launched their Summer campaign 

“This family pays too much income tax: Britain would be better off with the Conservatives” 

Tribune declared that ‘slogans are not enough’ arguing that ‘some snappy slogans’ and a ‘few hundred thousand pounds of national advertising’ will not bring ‘the party faithful flocking back to the colours’

The Guardian argued that the slogan would have been better for 1964 because ‘it cannot be said that the Government’s record in the past four years has been emblazoned with burning, selfless idealism’

Jeremy Thorpe, the Liberal leader, said it’s all good the party having heart and soul ‘but it would help if its showed some sign of having a head as well’ 

Labour strategists calculated that they had made the money back from advertising by the number of commentators and newspaper editorials that had critiqued it. 

By the end of the campaign, Wilson was faced with two alternative posters attacking Heath

One showed a face of a smiling Heath with the line ‘This is an advertisement on behalf of the Labour Party”

A second contrasted Wilson speaking to supporters with a glum looking Heath with the words ‘Labour’s got life and soul’ underneath 

Wilson rejected both believing that it would not fit with the positive campaign Labour had run. 

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