Labour Isn't Working

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Labour Isnt Working.jpg

Labour Isn't Working was an advertising campaign in the United Kingdom. It was run by the Conservative Party during the run-up to the 1979 general election and was designed by advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi.[1]


The poster's design was a picture of a snaking dole queue[2] outside of an unemployment office. Above it was the slogan "Labour isn't working" with the phrase "Britain's better off with the Conservatives" in a smaller text below.[3]

The picture in the poster originally planned for 100 extras to be used for the picture. However, only 20 volunteers from the Hendon Young Conservatives turned up to be photographed. The desired effect was achieved by photographing the same people repeatedly and then striping them together.[4] The picture was also used in a second poster accompanied by the slogan "Labour still isn't working."[4]

The poster was considered popular; similar versions of it have been released in later years in the UK. In October 2012, the Conservatives used "Labour isn't learning" in a poster in preparation for the next general election[5] and in March 2012 UK Uncut used "austerity isn't working" and recreated the picture outside Downing Street on Budget Day.[6]

During the Great Recession the left had images saying Austerity isn't working.[7] etc.

In 2012 during the United States Presidential Election, the Republican Party used a copy of the poster,[8] using the slogan "Obama isn't working" instead of "Labour isn't working".[9]

In December 2013, Church Action on Poverty launched a campaign "Britain isn't eating".[10] using a modified version with the queue leading to a Food Bank.


When the poster was released, the way the photo was taken was leaked and Labour's Denis Healey criticised it in the House of Commons by claiming the people in it were not genuinely unemployed and said that the Conservatives were "selling politics like soap-powder".[4]

The campaign was a success as it was viewed as backing up the Conservatives' claims against Labour. The Conservatives won the election with a 43-seat majority with the party leader, Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister.[11] Conservative Party treasurer, Lord Thorneycroft claimed that the poster won the election for the Conservatives.[4] In 1999, Campaign voted the poster as the "Best Poster of the Century".[12]


  1. ^ McSmith, Andy (2007-09-14). "They said Labour isn't working. Now Saatchi & Saatchi works for Labour". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  2. ^ By metrowebukmetro (2010-03-28). "PM mocked in Tory poster campaign". Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  3. ^ "Labour isn't working (Conservative, 1979)". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  4. ^ a b c d "'Epoch-making' poster was clever fake". BBC News. 2001-03-16. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  5. ^ Mason, Rowena (2012-10-01). "Lord Ashcroft: Tory leaders needs to grow up after 'juvenile' anti-Miliband ad campaign". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  6. ^ John Domokos (2012-03-21). "Budget 2012 protest: UK Uncut recreates dole queue outside Downing Street". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "US campaign ads carry familiar echo". BBC News. 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  9. ^ "Romney Stops Pulling Punches". Fox News. 2012-09-26. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  10. ^ [1]"Britain Isn't Eating"
  11. ^ "BBC Politics 97". BBC News. 1979-05-03. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  12. ^ Gibson, Janine (1999-08-16). "Tory advert rated poster of the century". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-01-01.