OPINION: Cameron's 'green' message lacks depth

Rory Bremner may still be perfecting his David Cameron impersonation, but he certainly knows what is going on in the Tory leader's head.

When he had Cameron saying ‘what on earth do we want policies for?' we laughed loudly because we know that's exactly what the Tory leader is thinking.

We have now had two Tory policy commission reports, and both have been poor PR for Cameron. The first one, accidentally posted on the Conservatives' website and outed to the media by Labour, was an economic policy. This called for £21bn worth of tax cuts - just when Cameron had been denying the need for them. Come the next election campaign, Labour will now relentlessly talk about a £21bn cut in services.

At the time, I jokingly wrote that Cameron should release all his policy reviews on Christmas Day in order to ‘bury bad news'.

But the latest policy - based around climate change - was a potential vote winner. And the Tory PR machine made a better fist of announcing it, giving the story to a few Sunday newspapers - ensuring big weekend TV coverage before the report's official publication on Monday. They even timed it to spoil Gordon Brown's ‘green speech' and the Climate Change Bill.

Unfortunately for the Tories, the plan backfired. Cameron's problem is not just that people don't want to pay more tax, but that the commission is unclear on exactly how the ‘green tax' will be spent. Cameron himself couldn't even answer these questions when probed.

The reaction of the newspapers to the Tories' proposals will not have made for happy reading.

Even The Sunday Telegraph, which was ‘leaked' the commission report in advance, was hostile. More significantly, the Daily Mail and The Sun hated the idea of higher tax on flying. But perhaps even worse for Cameron was the Daily Mirror exclusive that had John Redwood, chair of the Low Pay Commission, actually debunking the popular theories around global warming.

It is little wonder the Tories are still desperately seeking a new communications guru to help get newspaper editors on side and to install a little more discipline into the party ranks. With Labour in almost open warfare as they await the election of their new leader, the Tories should in fact be much further ahead in the polls.

A comms person with half a brain would surely find a way to at least downgrade these commissions and let Cameron announce his real, thought-out, policies when he is ready, just as New Labour once did.
charlie.whelan@haymarket.com

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