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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

Labour pollster and strategist Philip Gould dies

UK— Labour Party pollster and political strategist Philip Gould has died of cancer aged 61.

He is credited with helping the party and its leader Tony Blair win three successive elections. Guardian political editor Patrick Wintour said: “More than any other leading Labour figure, Philip Gould understood the mentality of swing voters in England, and how to frame Labour politics to persuade them to vote for Blair.”

Tony Blair led the tributes to Gould, whom he described as “my guide and mentor, a wise head, a brilliant mind, and a total rock when a storm was raging… He became indispensable. He was always a constant advocate for the British people, their hopes and anxieties. So his political contribution was immense.”

The Daily Telegraph said Gould’s expertise and influence “was his replacement of crude opinion polling with American-style political focus groups”.

He carried out his first focus groups for the party in 1985, working with Deborah Mattinson, who now runs the consultancy BritainThinks. In a tweet this morningMattinson said: “So sad about Philip. It was an enormous privilege to work with him, especially in those exciting early days. He will be much missed.”

YouGov president Peter Kellner, who spoke regularly to Gould while working as a journalist for the BBC and The Independent at the time of the 1992 General Election campaign, remembers him for his honesty and candour. “Even at the height of New Labour’s popularity, when it won two landslide election victories, he kept telling Blair when he was drifting away from Labour voters. Blair was sensible, and self-confident, enough to heed Philip’s advice,” Kellner said.

Labour’s former director of communications and strategy Alastair Campbell said of Gould: “He was a team player, and his team was Labour. ‘Pollster’ doesn’t really say the half of it. He was an integral member of the inner team that worked to get Labour back into power, and stay there for more than the usual single Parliament breathing space for the Tories. His focus groups, far from being an exercise in PR, were a way of making sure that the kind of people he felt Labour forgot in the wilderness years had a direct voice to the top of politics.”

Gould – who was made Lord Gould of Brookwood in 2004 – died on 6 November. He is survived by his wife Gail Rebuck and their daughters Georgia and Grace.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I remember frantically organising focus groups for him...RIP Philip

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