OPINION: The Big Brother house sets up at Number 10

The success of Big Brother once prompted some politicians to say that Westminster could learn lessons from the high levels of participation in reality TV. Little did they realise that politics would soon resemble a reality TV show itself.

Whelan: ‘Labour can govern... the Tories cannot'
Whelan: ‘Labour can govern... the Tories cannot'

When someone asked me recently how Labour could go from an 11 point lead in the polls to a seven point deficit in just a few weeks, it was impossible to answer on the basis of any real political change.

Gordon Brown may have messed up the (non) election announcement but little has actually happened to materially affect the electorate, which is why there is no sense of panic in Number 10.

Downing Street’s media team has hardly enjoyed its finest hours recently, but I also thought the reaction of the other TV political editors to their exclusion from that Andrew Marr interview was hysterical.

Equally hysterical is the trend towards political leaders as celebrities. David Cameron is the
media’s favourite star one week – only to be portrayed as a dead duck the next, and an even bigger star the week after that.

And Brown has gone from the best Prime Minister we have ever had, to the worst – all in the space of one week.

It was Alastair Campbell who first complained about the political media being obsessed with
the process, and not the policy. And how right he was.

Even when policy does become an issue, there is little or no attempt to explain it. How else can one regard the near universal support for changes to the inheritance tax regime, when less than six per cent of us are affected?

The Labour Government had a response to the Tories’ tax pro­posals only because of the hysterical media support for them, but the real challenge for Brown’s PR team is how they face their current reversal in fortunes in the polls. The problem is that any new policy initiatives at the moment will be simply seen as spin.

So the best thing that Labour can do is to govern. It sounds simple, but it is the one thing the Tories cannot do. Remember that Brown remains miles ahead of Cameron in the ‘best leader for the country’ stakes.

The next election will be even more presidential than the last, so Brown vs Cameron will be the key. What Brown must hope is that voters’ heads will stay in the real world rather than the ‘Punch and Judy’ show in the House of Commons or indeed the Big Brother house of political media coverage.

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