PM warned of 'bad news' risk following European speech delay

Delays around David Cameron's much-maligned speech on Europe have endangered media plans and increased the danger of 'bad news burying good news', it has been claimed.

Lost for words: David Cameron had to cancel his speech on Europe
Lost for words: David Cameron had to cancel his speech on Europe

Last Friday, the Prime Minister cancelled the speech that was to have spelled out his vision for Britain’s place in Europe because of the hostage crisis in Algeria.

Despite pre-briefed media running excerpts of the PM’s words, emergency comms plans kicked into action. These included Foreign Secretary William Hague ducking out of giving comment for a two-page piece that was scheduled to have appeared in The Sun, PRWeek understands.

Cameron is due to deliver his speech on Wednesday.

Last week, PRWeek revealed concerns with regard to Number 10’s media planning.

A lobby source said the decision to cancel was right, but warned that continual delays on such a key speech, which The Times described as ‘jinxed’, had been damaging to Number 10’s comms strategy.

‘The Algerian issue has blown things off course,’ the source said. ‘There will be a chase to get the whole news grid back on track, and there’s a danger that good news will get buried by bad news.’

Cameron initially pledged to outline his vision for Europe last summer amid a  deep coalition split on the issue. However, the date he originally planned to give the speech – 22 January – was changed because it clashed with the 50th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty.

In the pre-released speech excerpt, the PM warned the UK could ‘drift towards’ exiting the EU if problems were not addressed, but added that he wanted to set out a ‘positive vision’ for the future.

The decision to make a speech at all was flawed, according to Alex Challoner, MD of Cavendish Communications: ‘Cameron is doomed to fail, as he is never going to be able to give enough to those on the right wing on his party. The hardline Eurosceptics will always want more.

‘He would have been better off defining his position in a number of smaller moves. For example, he could have spoken out more during summit meetings and positioned more towards policy ideas. Instead, he forced himself into a corner by pledging to give a speech before policy was firmed up.’

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