@ToryPressHQ….a silent casualty of #hackgate?
We were told the Conservatives ran a ‘slick’ media operation and Labour would struggle to compete. However, the News of the World/News International phone-hacking scandal has left that myth cruelly exposed. Cameron has always appeared one-step behind the opposition; including Nick Clegg . Not only that but rather than giving the impression of statesman-like rising above the crisis to take control; Cameron’s attitude has appeared to be one of aloof indifference.
Take the mind-boggling decision that rather than meet the parents of Milly Dowler himself, Cameron should send along his little sock-puppet; the artist otherwise known as the Deputy Prime Minister. Whoever made that decision clearly has no sense of any kind; then there was the confusion over whether Cameron should attend the Parliamentary debate provoked by Labour’s Opposition Day motion. Amazingly, his stated excuse was ‘the Prime Minister is simply too busy’.
Other, more subtle symptoms of the mania gripping Tory Press HQ exist. It is notable that none of the government heavyweights have been deployed in defence of Murdoch and News Corp and hanging Jeremy Hunt out to dry in culture questions bordered on cruelty. They were obviously genuinely flat-footed by the whole thing and failed the first test of a good communications operation; namely, the ability to respond effectively to unforeseen events. You merely have to be competent to manage the flow of news and information you know about; only exceptional ones can come out of a totally unexpected even untarnished. In that vein, compare and contrast with how the operation around Tony Blair’s responded to the death of Princess Diana. Different events in terms of magnitude and depth of public feeling for sure, but the basic point, that it performed much better under stress holds.
It is conceivable that there are elements of a conscious strategy here; that they have figured, rightly, that this storm will pass eventually and have decided merely to baton down the hatches. The absence of senior figures could be a deliberate damage limitation strategy BUT the problem with this is it fails to take account of the existing impression that Cameron, largely due to his social background, is totally remote from the feelings and experiences of the electorate at large. If this was a conscious choice therefore it was a bad one. The Conservative spin machine is far from brilliant and there is no need for us to be in awe of it; in the last couple of weeks it has shown how vulnerable it is.