Home Office calls in Saatchi to put a gloss on immigratio

The Sunday Times January 21, 2007

Home Office calls in Saatchi to put a gloss on immigration

THE Home Office has hired one of the most famous names in political advertising to help to “sell” its discredited immigration policies to a sceptical public, writes David Leppard.

A confidential government document shows that the agency set up by the Saatchi brothers, who helped win power for Baroness Thatcher in 1979 with their Labour Isn’t Working posters, has been retained to work on a “reassurance message” to persuade voters that ministers will succeed in strengthening Britain’s borders.

The document says that more signs at immigration control points in airports would help “inspire public confidence”.

The move follows the now-infamous admission last May by John Reid, the home secretary, that the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, which administers immigration policy, was not “fit for purpose”.

His predecessor, Charles Clarke, was sacked over the failure to deport more than 1,000 foreign prisoners when they were released from British jails.

A leaked briefing paper on the new campaign, prepared by the Central Office of Information, reveals that M&C Saatchi is one of several advertising firms that have been working on the project.

The document says: “Recent media coverage — foreign national prisoners, illegal workers — has exposed serious weak-nesses in the immigration system and these have further seriously weakened the public’s confidence in the government’s ability to control immigration.”

A Home Office report last week raised more questions over border controls at major airports. It warned that staff shortages meant that immigration officers felt under “intense pressure” to allow foreign travellers into Britain, even where there were doubts over their status.

And an internal Home Office memo emerged warning that illegal immigrants entering the European Union via the Canary Islands posed a “potential threat” to Britain.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “What good are extra signs if there aren’t enough immigration officers in the first place to process everyone who enters through our busy air-ports? Once again, presentation is triumphing over substance in government thinking on an issue of vital public concern.”

The document says the communication challenges facing the campaign include “the public’s widely held view that immigration is out of control”. It warns of “a hostile media looking for the government to fail”.

Describing the campaign’s “target audiences”, the marketing memo notes: “General public — a segmentation exercise on the key audiences for a reassurance message has been conducted by M&C Saatchi.” The memo provides no further information on what work Saatchi’s is doing for the Home Office campaign. The agency declined to comment.

Reid is expected to unveil a uniform for immigration officers to increase their visibility and details of his new policy at Glas-gow airport next weekend. The plans include tightening exit and entry controls at ports, cracking down on firms that employ illegal immigrants and fast-tracking asylum decisions, making sure that those whose claims have failed are removed.
This should be a great help to illegals, who will now know who to dodge!

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