Hell’s Bell: the Thatcher image-maker behind SA’s Gupta scandal
Lord Bell's charm and pithy slogans helped the Tories conquer Labour, but he was undone by the Bell Pottinger disaster
Lord Bell, who has died at 77, revolutionised British politics by introducing commercial advertising techniques into general election campaigns; in doing so he became a friend and confidant of the Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher and made himself the best-known media image-maker of his generation.
Yet Tim Bell was a complex character, and his buccaneering style (he boasted of making up research, doing “terrible things”, claiming “irrelevant expenses”, and admitted to having snorted cocaine on a regular basis when working for the Tories) grew increasingly out of keeping in a PR industry striving to clean up its act.
In his heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, first with Saatchi & Saatchi, then on a personal basis, Bell’s packaging of the Conservatives was considered by many to have played a vital role in the party’s three successive elections victories in 1979, 1983 and 1987. Possibly the ultimate stamp of approval came when the Labour Party, which had previously derided the Tories’ use of advertising, imitated his tactics in the 1980s by creating the “Red Rose” image...