George Eustice: Government must seize the initiative

As Parliament returns, the Government is anxious to get back on the front foot and change the political weather following a difficult period in the aftermath of the Budget. The fightback started with a package of measures briefed to the Sunday papers to get Britain moving again by boosting infrastructure investment and shaking up the planning system. This was followed by the long-awaited reshuffle.

Eustace: Recovery is harder for the Conservatives
Eustace: Recovery is harder for the Conservatives

As I have written previously, media sentiment is similar to the weather. It is never clear when a stormy spell has ended and the prevailing media narrative is set for change.

There are certain prerequisites such as the Government getting a grip operationally and executing decisions and announcements effectively. But it is also heavily influenced by the pack mentality of the press lobby, and whether it is bored and ready for a change in the story.

All a political party can do is build well-planned, concentrated activity around significant events, in the hope that this will eventually hit fertile ground and break the cycle of bad news.

The Government will have judged that an Olympic summer with plenty of non-political news might have calmed the fever in the lobby.

Hitting the ground running on the day before Parliament returns to try to own the agenda from the start was essential.

Its aim now must be to hold the agenda and sustain a period of news coverage that goes roughly to plan over the next few weeks - culminating in a successful conference to inject fresh momentum. That requires careful planning and the bomb-proofing of everything that is to be announced.

Staging a recovery is always harder for the Conservatives than for Labour. When Labour hits turbulence, its MPs rally round and the Daily Mirror leaps to its defence and turns up the heat on the Conservatives.

When the Conservative Party hits turbulence, it is plagued with its own side-turns on the leadership, and the so-called right-wing press pours petrol on the fire, whipping up anger among Tory activists and driving a coach and horses through any attempt by the party to get back on its feet.

 

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

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