Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Brown's PR nightmare

Interesting article in the FT this morning that highlights how "Mr Brown’s allies admit it is proving impossible to shift the media off a “narrative” that his authority is shot and that Labour is heading for electoral oblivion."

It goes on to say that in light of this media narrative:

"The prime minister’s team is furious yet impotent. They point out that Alistair Darling, chancellor, and Geoff Hoon, the transport secretary, are pilloried in the press for repaying expenses claims but senior Conservatives seem to have escaped lightly. “The media have decided there is a crisis, but David Cameron and half of his front bench have had to pay back expenses – we don’t hear much about that,” said one Labour MP."

So how, as Labour media stratigist, would you deal with this?

Intriguingly the writer of this article also subscribes to this narrative:

"the vultures are circling over Mr Brown’s government. A sense of morbid despair hangs over conversations with Labour MP and ministers, their passion for politics sapped by more than a decade in power and the corrosive effect of the expenses scandal."

It's funny but for some time since Cameron came in and Blair left I've had the feeling that we're at one of those sea change moments in British politics, when the electorate has just had enough of the old and beleives that the answer is to elect in another party. It's a strange experience to see how such consensus gathers and builds in the media, starting in the world of PR and public affairs where agencies have been recruiting Tory favourites with access to Cameron's inner circle for the last few years.

The expenses scandal, however, has blown Cameron's confident Tories just as far off course, and likewise the Lib Dems, paving the way for what many are predicting will be a strong turn out for smaller parties and independents. It remains to be seen whether this sentiment still holds true when Brown finally does allow the election to take place at the very latest date possible. If he is still in the job by then, of course!

It will be interesting to see what Labour does now. They can hardly topple Brown and install a second PM 'without a mandate' in one term. They should have held the election the minute Blair left, but now their best bet must surely be to cling on and hope that Brown's new cabinet can somehow come up with some new ideas that, as Lord Falconer said on Radio 4 this morning, can demonstrate "a change of politics which doesn't require a change of leadership". This will be a very difficult job to communicate given the prevailing media picture of Brown as the bumbling and ineffective captain of an already sinking shop.

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