Government in uphill fight against image of 'incompetence'

David Cameron is in danger of being unable to win policy battles as he fights against a reputation for incompetence, PR professionals have suggested.

David Cameron: Criticised by Lord Tebbit
David Cameron: Criticised by Lord Tebbit

The weekend saw the Government attacked from all sides of the media and political spectrum, with Tory grandee Lord Tebbit calling the Government ‘this dog of a coalition’ and rumours of splits within the Cabinet.

Tebbit's words follow on from Friday’s resignation of chief whip Andrew Mitchell after the debacle that has been dubbed ‘plebgate’, and Chancellor George Osborne being caught in a first class train carriage with a second class ticket.

Gill Morris, CEO of Connect Communications, said that the lack of action over Mitchell suggested that the Prime Minister had lost his confidence.

The weekend's poor press also follows confusion around major policy issues in recent weeks, such as the decision on the train service provider for the West Coast Mainline and confusion around energy prices.

Morris said that as the controversies and embarrassments stacked up around the Government, it risked continuing to build on ‘the undercurrent of incompetence’ that had blighted Cameron in recent months.

‘People are questioning his ability and once that happens you need a good PR machine to dictate things but I don’t think he has that around him at the moment,’ she added.

In an effort to get back on to the front foot, Cameron will today outline policy around crime with a speech on 'making prisons work'.

In it, he will stress that personal responsibility is key to the criminal justice system, with long prison sentences the only ‘thinkable’ punishment for certain serious offences.

However, like Morris, Four Communications’ director Jim Dickson thought it would be very difficult to regain the initiative.

‘In terms of his speech today on justice, the way the story is breaking is that we are already seeing people picking holes in it, and claiming it has not been costed properly,’ he said.

‘It reveals how the Government is attempting to change the conversation and move forward but is constantly having the ground cut away beneath it by perceptions of incompetence and the added scrutiny that goes with it.’

The Government needed to strengthen its comms operation, while ‘setting a clear agenda and sticking with it’ to regain the momentum, he added.

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