May 2017 – ‘Because Britain Deserves Better’ Poster, 1997

NMLH-1997.43.1_5In May 1997 the Labour Party won the general election with its largest ever majority.  1997 represented a dramatic turnaround for the party as they had been out of office since 1979.

During the 1980s and 1990s, both Labour and the Conservatives spent heavily on increasingly sophisticated marketing campaigns.  It was posters like this one which helped shape voters’ opinions of Labour’s credibility.  It depicts the then leader, and future prime minister, Tony Blair.  Following the 1992 election defeat, Blair came to realise that Labour could only win the 1996 election by appealing to long-time Conservative voters and convincing them that Labour was on their side and could help them ‘get on in life’.  He transformed the party into ‘New Labour’ through a series of major reforms to its manifesto and policies.

Posters featuring party leaders during campaigns were nothing new but here, with his shirt sleeves rolled up and tie loosened, the image of Tony Blair emphasised a more informal attitude, with a ‘can-do’ approach.  His upward gaze may also suggest a new optimism.  The phrase ‘because Britain deserves better’ appeared in the manifesto, on flags, hats and mugs and emphasised the positive nature of much of the campaign.

This poster (NMLH.1997.43.1) features in the New Dawn? The 1997 general election exhibition which examines the legacy of New Labour.  The exhibition is on display until Sunday 4 June 2017.