George Eustice: You need to work with the weather

Enoch Powell once said that for a politician to complain about the press is like a ship's captain complaining about the sea.

George Eustice: You need to work with the weather
George Eustice: You need to work with the weather

David Cameron had his own twist on the old adage, saying that complaining about the media was like a farmer complaining about the weather. Well, I used to be a farmer and I complained about the weather.

The Government has suffered an appalling press over the past few weeks. Some of it is undoubtedly due to the natural cycle in the media weather about which you can do little. Trends in media sentiment have always fascinated me. Steve Hilton used to liken them to market sentiment in the City. When you are in an uptrend you can do no wrong and the mistakes you make simply go unnoticed by our supposedly rigorous media.

But when you suffer a downtrend, everything that you say is doomed to backfire.

When you follow these trends for years you start to see patterns. The current weather system damaging the Government started to take shape late last year. Ed Miliband was in serious trouble and the media wanted there to be a fight within the Labour Party but there is no mechanism to allow this to happen so the story waned.

Then the media built themselves up for an alternative fight between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats over the Budget. They endured months of tired speculation but, in the end, there was nothing that had not already been leaked. Both coalition partners also seemed happy and united. Boredom in the lobby is dangerous. It inevitably leads to mischief and aggression. The Easter recess provided the ignition point, so the Government has experienced the full force of a media downtrend ever since.

Governments cannot fight the weather but must work with it. If No 10 made a mistake, it was to over-react by bringing forward announcements in the vain hope they might change the headlines, as if this media phenomenon were somehow rational. To continue the farming analogy, you make hay when the sun shines. The next big event in politics is the London mayoral election. Win that, and the weather will change.

George Eustice is Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth and a former press secretary to David Cameron.

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