Andrea Leadsom gets campaign help from Margaret Thatcher’s image guru
Exclusive: Lord Bell says Tory leadership hopeful has shades of Mrs T.
The Conservative PR guru Tim Bell has declared that Andrea Leadsom is "the real deal" as he lends his weight to her campaign to be next Tory leader.
Lord Bell is credited with devising the famous ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ advert in 1979 and helping Margaret Thatcher to win three general elections.
Today, he said that Leadsom was more like his old boss than any of her Tory leadership rivals – but he also stressed that she was "not the second coming".
Bell was present for Leadsom’s leadership launch at a Westminster restaurant this morning, which he helped to organise.
The founder and chair of Bell Pottinger is understood to be one of a number of senior Tory PR men assisting on the campaign. Also on board is Nick Wood, the former adviser to Iain Duncan Smith who now runs Media Intelligence Partners.
On the parliamentary side, Tim Loughton has been made campaign manager while Chris Heaton-Harris has taken the role of chief whip, responsible for ensuring that the candidate gets enough supporters in the House of Commons to get through to the second stage of the contest. On Monday evening, Leadsom also won the backing of Boris Johnson.
Speaking to Total Politics, Bell said he was happy to provide advice but that specific media advisory roles had not yet been drawn up.
"I’ve offered my services to her and she decides whether she wants them or not and in what circumstances. So far, she’s kept me on board," he said.
"It won’t really settle down to a campaign team until we get to work with the membership. The real work starts when you try to convince the membership of the party."
Asked if he believed that Leadsom had Thatcherite qualities, Bell said: "I think she’s the real deal. … She’s the person that can negotiate Brexit and unite the party and unite the country."
Pressed on whether the Tory leadership hopeful reminded him of Thatcher, he responded: "Yes, there are plenty of comparisons but we’re not looking for another one, it’s not an identikit. She’s more like her than not… but she’s not the second coming.
"Of the five candidates, she’s much more like I remember Mrs T when she was trying to become leader. She’s much more like her than any of the others are. Theresa has had 15 years to be like Margaret and is nothing like her at all – even if she does wear the same colour suits."
On Monday evening, Leadsom was in second place in terms of support from Tory MPs, with many pro-Brexit-Tories rallying behind her. Supporters of Leadsom include Iain Duncan Smith, John Redwood, Bernard Jenkin, Owen Paterson, Penny Mordaunt and Nadine Dorries.
Bell said of Leadsom’s backers: "They’re proper Tories. Whether they’re eurosceptics or not, they are proper Conservatives. They believe in the free market, small government and the civil society."
Outlining his support for the 53-year-old Tory MP, Johnson said: "Andrea Leadsom offers the zap, the drive, and the determination essential for the next leader of this country. She has long championed the needs of the most vulnerable in our society. She has a better understanding of finance than almost anyone else in Parliament. She has considerable experience of government.
"She is level-headed, kind, trustworthy, approachable and the possessor of a good sense of humour. She has specialised in the EU question and successfully campaigned for leave and will be therefore well-placed to help forge a great post-Brexit future for Britain and Europe.
"Above all she possesses the qualities needed to bring together leavers and remainers in the weeks and months ahead. I will be voting for Andrea Leadsom tomorrow."