Labour Isn't Working
"Labour Isn't Working" was an advertising campaign in the United Kingdom. It was run by the Conservative Party during the Winter of Discontent, in the run-up to the 1979 general election and was designed by advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi.
At the time of the poster's publication, unemployment was high by post-war UK standards: between 5 and 6% (though the unemployment rate has remained at or above these levels for most of the UK's subsequent history).
The poster's design was a picture of a snaking dole queue 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.
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. The picture was also used in a second poster accompanied by the slogan "Labour still isn't working."
Reception in 1979
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".
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. Conservative Party treasurer, Lord Thorneycroft claimed that the poster won the election for the Conservatives. In 1999, Campaign voted the poster as the "Best Poster of the Century".
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 and in March 2012 UK Uncut used "austerity isn't working" and recreated the picture outside Downing Street on Budget Day.
In the 2015 UK General Election campaign, the Labour Party unveiled a very similar poster, this time highlighting A&E waiting times, with the headline "The Doctor Can't See You Now." and subtitle "The Tories Have Made It Harder To See A GP".
The idea was used by UKIP in its campaign in the London mayoral election, 2016, where the intended message was against mass immigration, with a poster titled "OPEN DOOR IMMIGRATION ISN'T WORKING", subtitled "LONDON'S POPULATION IS GROWING BY ONE MILLION EVERY DECADE". UKIP used the idea again in the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, when a poster titled "BREAKING POINT" with the subtitle "The EU has failed us all" showed a long, snaking line of refugees waiting to come into the country.
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