Tara Hamilton-Miller: Leaders embrace broadcast election

I passed by Queen Elizabeth Hall last week where the Chilcot Inquiry plods on.

Tara Hamilton-Miller
Tara Hamilton-Miller

There were a few TV cameras, a dozen producer types in cagoules, but apart from that, nothing. I counted nine bored-looking policemen. There is more action in the Croydon branch of Chicken Cottage on a Friday.

Although Gordon Brown's appearance at Chilcot would seem to be big news, it came and went. It was extraordinary. He is the Prime Minister of a country still mired in the aftermath of a war that was at best, misguided, at worst criminal. The wider point is that he was so good at blinding us with figures and turning it into a non-story it felt like a late 1990s Budget.

Nobody was that much clearer as to what went wrong in Iraq, but there was a feeling it wasn't Brown's fault. He is becoming a confidence player. When he's bad, he really mucks up, but when he plays well, he is quite impressive. Brown had a good week and dodged the bullets, while the Tories took a hit with Lord Ashcroft. PR-wise Brown pulled it off.

Meanwhile, David Cameron launched his own PR campaign, holding a reception on Monday in his office for all the TV producers. Courting the broadcasters, he talked about how they were all going to spend a lot of time together. He knew his audience were going to play a part in his future - it is the TV cameras that stand between him and Number 10.

The party leaders are going to have to fit in a gruelling regular election campaign and combine it with the huge amount of prep that must be put in to pull off a faultless performance in the TV debates.

Both Tory and Labour camps are united in their distaste that Nick Clegg will join them. This is war and they want the two key players to slug it out between themselves. There are grumbles that the rag-tag Liberal Democrats get to share an even platform with the PM and the first serious Tory leader since 1994.

This will be the broadcast election - it will play a part over and above anything we have seen. Cameron ended his speech with the words: 'This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.' He can only hope.

- Tara Hamilton-Miller is a political adviser and formerly worked for the Conservative Party press team.

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