Will 2013 be better for Government?

This is my final column for PRWeek and, as a bumpy year for the Government draws to a close, I wanted to consider how it can change its luck in 2013.

George Eustice: 'A myth has been circulating around Government that its bad press over the past nine months has been caused by the Leveson Inquiry.'
George Eustice: 'A myth has been circulating around Government that its bad press over the past nine months has been caused by the Leveson Inquiry.'

A myth has been circulating around Government that its bad press over the past nine months has been caused by the Leveson Inquiry, and that if it could just find a way of parking that, all would be solved. That is not how it works. The press has been grumpy about being scrutinised, but the impact is exaggerated and the press never repays favours. John Major's government let it off the hook in 1993 after the Calcutt Inquiry and was subsequently savaged. Gordon Brown let it off recommended changes to data protection laws after Operation Motorman, but it didn't improve his press coverage.

In every campaign I have been involved with, there are two areas where things are always waiting to go wrong: structure and message. Political organisations are vulnerable to chaos because there are so many people with a view and events move so quickly. Those who work in politics are condemned to hear certain phrases over and over again: 'Who agreed to this?', 'did we know this was happening?' and, most of all, 'why wasn't I consulted?'

The ability to reach considered decisions and then execute them in a timely way creates advantage. Each decision needs to be properly war-gamed so that possible consequences are predicted in advance and factored in. To get things right you need a clear but shallow command structure so that decisions can be made without the decision makers becoming remote and oblivious to the traps that lie before them.

When it comes to message there are three essential ingredients: clarity, consistency and repetition. Without this, all the public hears is noise. At his last party conference, David Cameron delivered a compelling narrative around aspiration that had clarity. But the Government has struggled to get that message hardwired into everything it does so that there is consistency and repetition. Perhaps it will get there in 2013?

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

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