Which came first, policies or PR?

Shortly before heading off on holiday, Ed Miliband's office sent an email to shadow ministers asking for 'story ideas' with which to seize headlines during August's silly season.

Ian Monk: 'Politicians are in danger of being seen as all PR mouth and no policy trousers.'
Ian Monk: 'Politicians are in danger of being seen as all PR mouth and no policy trousers.'

None was forthcoming and Labour and its spinners were deemed to have endured a barren summer of plummeting popularity. Their woes were compounded when the leader's return was marked by his being used as target practice by an aggressively accurate egg-chucker.

Surely giving Ed his Prescott moment to demonstrate the street cred he so palpably lacks wasn't some sap's story idea?

Given the obsession by all parties with spin and stunts and the quality of some of their advice in that department, one couldn't be sure.

Equally fatuous was last weekend's suggestion on the front page of The Sunday Times that Labour would give votes to 16-year-olds. Was it genuine policy, born of conviction, or simply a PR strategy to drive headlines?

Like so much hot air spun out from Westminster, it smacked of diversion. There is no indication it is an issue exercising the minds of an electorate grown cynically weary of politicians. Maybe, of course, it was the talk of GCSE hopefuls deemed too young to drive and smoke but on the cusp of enfranchisement.

Politicians are in danger of being seen as all PR mouth and no policy trousers. Their endless hectoring across all media platforms is palpably driven by spin.

Principle, belief and conviction - the elements that give voters real choice and power - are no more. What voter can be bothered to vote for the best PR stunt?

Identikit politicians parade themselves across social media, popping up incessantly on Facebook and Twitter to create a matey omnipresence in the lives of voters.

Visibility has replaced vision. Personality matters, but without debate beyond it elective democracy dies.

The role of political PR should be to project principles and ideas that give people a clear basis for choice. Not to aid and abet headless chicken politicians in a desperate search for summer stories and stunts.

Take one egg ...

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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