Danny Rogers: Tories fail to deliver required optimism

The Conservatives were determined to kick off their annual conference with a policy-driven headline. The move to end child benefit for higher rate taxpayers dominated the media agenda from Sunday to Tuesday. Both timing and execution were spot on, but what about the message?

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

On prweek.com/uk, senior public affairs professionals praised Chancellor George Osborne and Downing Street's comms director Andy Coulson for 'sending out a clear signal that the Government can cut without creating administration'.

However, those outside the right-wing establishment hit back hard. The BBC's reporting was sceptical, while The Guardian seized on concern within Tory ranks.

Channel 4 unleashed a powerful Dispatches programme on Monday, revealing the 'sinister' links between David Cameron, Coulson and the Murdoch family, which controls News International.

One sees a fearsome tribal battle developing within Britain's power elite. Dispatches featured left-wing politicians such as John Prescott and Tom Watson, but, more interestingly, two senior Daily Mail journalists - Peter Oborne and Stephen Glover.

Fascinatingly, a new battlefield emerges - comprising the Camerons, the Murdochs, the liberal left, the hard left and the Daily Mail right - with some unlikely alliances being formed.

The child benefit announcement prompted a quintessentially British class debate about 'working families', 'benefit cheats' and the 'privileged minority'. The media were in heaven.

Certainly the Conservatives pulled off what Labour failed to achieve with its own conference; the impression of a party tackling the tough issues on the streets of Britain. But what the Tories' media strategy lacked, in my view, was any sense of optimism.

The obsession with cuts and welfare reform further depresses the already anxious national psyche. Since the coalition came to power, there has been a tangible dip in confidence among consumers and business, which is starting to adversely affect both the economy and the PR industry.

We all know the public sector is in a demoralised state awaiting October's spending review, but even the private sector has been infected with gloom.

One has to hope that Osborne et al have been managing down expect-ations only to deliver less-than-awful news on 20 October. Because what we all need is a bit of hope and vision to lift us out of this long recession.

danny.rogers@haymarket.com

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