Just over half of voters in Witney plumped for ‘remain’ in June, so the LibDem pickup there suggests Labour is surrendering one of its strongest cards with voters who don’t like the Government. Back in Westminster and Whitehall, here’s our take on the week.
As Corbyn’s team thinks public opinion doesn’t matter and May’s team keeps its head down planning Brexit, we could be entering a “post-spin era” (when was the last time you noticed a Government “initiative” headlining on Today?). This might reflect an admirable acceptance that the 140-character-news-cycle means feeding the beast has been replaced by cleaning Augean stables, and that the Government really does just want to “get on with the job”. The goal would be laudable, but tempting to stray from.
…but nature abhors a vacuum…
If Government comms is to become more substantive, it must be, well, more substantive. Long-term policy goals and strategic positioning must be made interesting enough that the media wants to talk about them, or else public opinion will be shaped by critics. Last weekend’s edition of the Torygraph, for instance, gave headline billing to Conservative opposition to Heathrow (politically negative) and soldiers being sued (neutral at best), while the PM’s efforts to drum up international trade were buried on p17. That kind of coverage only emboldens disgruntled backbenchers.
…and loves personalities
The big names needed to deliver Government messages must be managed more effectively, too. There’s only so many times any self-respecting politician (and politicians don’t tend to be short on self-respect) will take headlines about being ‘slapped down’ before they resign, for example.
One last note before signing off, the PAC gave the Government a kick in the shins over shared services centres this week. It might not look like big news, but major public sector suppliers will be watching carefully to see how this develops – no-one wants to be the excuse for new Select Committee Chairs to pillory No.10….