OPINION: Brown won't discard media management

If, as Harold Wilson once said, a week is a long time in politics, ten years feels like the elapsing of a generation...

Gordon Brown’s over-anticipated inheritance of the top job this week marks the beginning of what will have to be a very different political era if the Labour Party is to retain power beyond its record-breaking decade.

There are many ways in which Brown will attempt to carve out his own niche. But, thanks to the legacy of his forerunner, the way his Government manages the way it communicates with the electorate (and to a lesser extent the business community) will likely be one of the hallmarks by which his success or otherwise will be judged.

The new PM will have to work hard to earn the trust of a public that has been made cynical by Blair’s obsession with presentational style over substance, as well as his concentration of decision-making.

Typified by the heady growth of social networking websites, the mood of the day is of a burgeoning desire for participation, at community level if not in the traditional theatre of politics. So the decision of the Brown press team to push the message that the new PM intends to listen makes sense.

But, as former Labour Party comms director Lance Price argues in our feature, it is naive to think that Blair invented the art of media management or that Brown is suddenly going to turn his back on it. Politicians have been trying to find artful ways to mould public opinion since the days of the 16th century philosopher Machiavelli, who encouraged his Medici political sponsor to create an image that Florentines would respond to.

And, as this week’s Panorama reminded us, courtesy of images of our own columnist Charlie Whelan giving journalists off-record briefings on Brown’s behalf ten years ago, our new leader knows exactly what is required to survive and thrive in politics.
claire.murphy@haymarket.com

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