Labour Pollster Philip Gould Dies Aged 61
Philip Gould, Baron Gould of Brookwood, the pollster who reshaped the image of the Labour party with the aid of focus groups, has died of cancer aged 61.
He started his career in advertising and in 1985 founded his own polling and strategy company, Philip Gould Associates. A chance meeting with Peter Mandelson led to him being invited onto the team which worked firstly towards the non-arrival of the hoped for Labour victory in both 1987 and 1992 and ultimately to the win in 1997. He continued to work for the party under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
Gould advocated the use of focus groups as a feedback mechanism both during elections and while in government and constantly communicated to Tony Blair any shift in the public’s opinion on policy. This strategy was initially very successful but the public, encouraged by the media, became a little skeptical of policy decisions apparently based on groups towards the end of Labour’s three terms in power.
His book The Unfinished Revolution: How the Modernisers Saved the Labour Party (1998) is regarded as a seminal work on the formation of New Labour.
He blamed the stress of the years of Labour rule in part for his illness and was very visible, giving interviews in both the press and on television, in the last few months of his life.
Tony Blair, in a tribute, described Gould as ‘a wise head, a brilliant mind.’ He added that he had played a ‘huge part of the renaissance of the Labour Party’ and that Gould ‘was always a constant advocate for the British people, their hopes and anxieties.’
Gordon Brown said: ‘Philip Gould was a brilliant political strategist, a renowned pollster, a superb adviser - but he was much more, a man of strong principles and high ideals who communicated to all around him an infectious belief in a Labour party which rose to the aspirations of the British people.’
He is survived by his wife Gail Rebuck and their daughters Georgia and Grace.