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British Conservative Party Leader David Cameron delivers a speech at the University of East London on February 8, 2010. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
British Conservative Party Leader David Cameron delivers a speech at the University of East London on February 8, 2010. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Harper strategist 'not working for David Cameron' Add to ...

Longtime Harper political strategist Patrick Muttart ended up as fodder for a Fleet Street tabloid Sunday in connection with preparations for an expected spring election in Britain.

A Daily Mail story mocks advice it says Mr. Muttart gave to Conservative Party Leader David Cameron as he prepares for Britain' first televised election debates.

"Stare down Brown ... and bring your own bottled water: David Cameron's TV tactics, courtesy of Canadian election guru," the Daily Mail headline reads.

The British Conservative Party leads in the polls over Gordon Brown's Labour Party, which will be trying to win a fourth term in office during a vote to be held on or before June 3.

"David Cameron has been secretly advised to stare at Gordon Brown in televised Election debates to make him feel uncomfortable," the Mail on Sunday said in a Feb. 21 story.

"According to documents seen by The Mail on Sunday, the Tory leader has also been urged to avoid drinking water provided by television studios because it is served so cold it 'tightens the throat'."

While it made fun of some of Mr. Muttart's suggestions, the Mail described him as the man credited with masterminding Prime Minister Stephen Harper's election victories. "He taught the conservative movement in Canada how to win elections again," the Mail quoted a commentator as saying of Mr. Muttart.

The British Conservative Party, however, distanced itself from the Canadian's suggestions, telling the Mail that it was "unsolicited" and that Mr. Muttart was not involved in TV debate preparation.

Mr. Muttart, who now works at a U.S. public affairs and political strategy firm, said the Daily Mail story was completely overblown.

He said his suggestons were part of an email conversation with a British Conservative - and nothing more.

"I'm not working for David Cameron," Mr. Muttart told The Globe and Mail.

"The e-mail in question was part of an exchange between me and a British Tory acquaintance; the continuation of a dialogue about TV debates that started previously at a private dinner in London with politicos from around the world," the Canadian political strategist said.

"That's it."

And then Mr. Muttart reached for that classic phrase that political operators use to scorn media coverage they disdain.

"Must be a slow news day in the U.K," he said.

A further excerpt from the Daily Mail story follows:

"In the documents, Mr Muttart says Mr Cameron should 'practise staring down Brown while the camera is focused on the moderators, other leaders. Makes your opponent feel uncomfortable'.

But he adds that when Mr Cameron is 'attacking/rebutting' he should 'look at his opponent's shoulder and not his face. Facial reactions can be distracting/destabilising'.

Personal attacks, meanwhile, should be 'well-timed and well-constructed' but used infrequently 'for the biggest impact'.

Most of Mr Muttart's advice is listed under a section entitled 'key presentation points'. It states: 'Ensure Cameron has room-temperature water. Cold water (with ice) tightens the throat. You should control his water - not the TV studio.

'When Brown/Clegg is addressing Cameron he should not write notes. To viewers it looks rude.'

He also urges Mr Cameron to 'use viable, easy-to-understand solutions versus abstract ideological musings'."

(Photo: Mr. Cameron delivers a speech to a London university this month. Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

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