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Sunak enlists creators of New Labour attack ads to target Starmer

New Labour
The 'three amigos' have already produced one advert for the Conservatives

Rishi Sunak has hired the executives who masterminded the 1997 “New Labour, New Danger” attack ad as he steps up his election campaign against Sir Keir Starmer.

The Telegraph has learnt that the Conservative Party has tapped advertising veterans David Kershaw, Bill Muirhead and Jeremy Sinclair to oversee a wave of so-called “negative campaigning” against the Labour Party.

The trio, dubbed the “three amigos”, have already produced one advert for the Conservatives featuring an image of a red piggy bank accompanied by the words: “If you think Labour will win, start saving…”

They are expected to produce more ads targeting Labour on the economy, though sources insisted the party would not take aim at Reform, despite Nigel Farage’s party overtaking the Tories in a recent opinion poll.

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The ad men have a long history of producing Tory election campaigns through M&C Saatchi, the agency they founded in 1995 alongside Charles and Maurice Saatchi following the brothers’ ousting from Saatchi & Saatchi.

They masterminded the “demon eyes” poster of Tony Blair ahead of the 1997 election, which was accompanied by the slogan: “New Labour, New Danger.”

New Labour
David Kershaw, Bill Muirhead and Jeremy Sinclair masterminded the 'demon eyes' poster of Tony Blair ahead of the 1997 election - The Conservative Party Archive/Hulton Archive

They also produced the “pocket Milliband” campaign in 2015 and supported David Cameron’s drive to keep the UK in the EU ahead of the Brexit vote.

The three amigos stepped down from M&C Saatchi in 2020 after the advertising agency was rocked by an accounting scandal. They subsequently formed their own company, Act 111, which holds the contract for the Tory campaign.

The Saatchi brothers’ relationship with the Conservatives goes back even further, and the pair are best known for creating Margaret Thatcher’s “Labour isn’t working” ad in 1979.

New Labour
The Saatchi brothers are best known for creating Margaret Thatcher's 'Labour isn't working' ad in 1979 - Chris Ware/Hulton Archive

Mr Sunak’s campaign is being led by Australian political strategist Issac Levido. Mr Levido was introduced to Adelaide-born Mr Muirhead through fellow countryman Sir Lynton Crosby, the political strategist known as the “Wizard of Oz”.

The Tories are reported to have spent around £450,000 on attack ads so far – the majority of their total spend of around half a million pounds.

The ads have largely targeted Sir Keir Starmer, focusing on claims that the Labour leader is plotting a £2,000 tax raid.

The disputed claim has sparked controversy and dominated the first leaders’ debate between Mr Sunak and Sir Keir, with the Labour leader branding it “absolute garbage”.

Mr Sunak is under growing pressure after Reform UK overtook the Conservatives in the latest opinion polling, fuelling fears among party figures that a split vote will give Labour a huge majority.

The Tories also came under fire after one of its own adverts warned the party could get fewer votes than both Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

A former No.10 special adviser said: “The decision to bring in the brains behind New Labour’s attack ads is a sensible one given the concerns around Starmer’s economic manifesto. But it may be too little too late for Rishi.”

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “Act 111 are providing advertising and creative assistance to CCHQ for the General Election campaign.”

Act 111 declined to comment.