When the PR Goes Wrong?
More and more we have seen both at national level with the Liberal Democrat Conservative coalition and locally with both of the Conservative controlled Borough and County Councils a reliance not on policy but on PR to control and spin the story as they want the public to see it.
The problem is that as we have seen over the last month once the PR goes wrong what is left and especially what and how do they react to the situation when the pressure and media start to ask for more than superficial explanations.
What we have seen nationally is a Government who in terms of PR resorted to making off the cuff statements which then resulted in a stream of those who are supposed to be leading the country appearing in the media trying to explain the comments away.
The problem faced by the coalition was of their own making when the Government and especially the Prime Minister allowed the Liberal Democrats, who we should remember are supposed to be the junior partners in the coalition, to make the running on the budget through the systematic leaking of what they believed the public would consider to be acceptable.
Leaving the Conservatives to carry the can for the “Granny Tax “that is going to take £83 a year from current pensioners and almost £300 from future pensioners, the “Pasty Tax” of which enough has been said and worst of all giving a tax break of up to £40,000 a year to those who already have wealth far above what ordinary hard-working people can ever aspire to and amongst who unsurprisingly are many of the Cabinet.
We then saw the utterly chaotic scenes last week of a Government thrashing around trying to divert attention by creating a fuel crisis and being soundly found out as nothing less than fear seized charlatans.
Is there any wonder that the public have now formed the opinion that David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and Danny Alexander et al are not only completely out of touch with the people but also willing to stoop to any level to keep the PR approach going?
It is a very clear case of over managed public relations, smoke, mirrors and spin and a total lack of leadership at a time when the country has gone back into recession and the national debt has risen to an all-time high, even higher than that faced by the UK after five years of a global war in 1945.
The problem for the people of Northampton is that the reliance on PR is not only centred on Westminster but has become a central theme of the Conservatives approach in the Borough and County.
In place of the “Granny Tax” we have seen the debacle over consultation around the development of the bus station and a panic to explain what was meant by the off the cuff remark from the Leader of the Council about a cost of £30 million to retain the current Bus Station.
It has to be said that the reasons given have if nothing else been both disingenuous and intentionally misleading as is made very clear in the report which outlines the options available.
I should say I am grateful to the Chair of the St James Residents Association for applying through a Freedom of Information request to have the report made available to the public.
The opposition to the decision to transfer all of the Northampton Borough Council housing stock including sheltered housing which was formerly off-limits, before carrying out what they are now saying will be “An honest and open consultation with tenants”.
Who on earth is going to believe it will be “An open and honest consultation” when the decision has already been taken and the Leader of the Council is reported as having said “transfer is the way forward”.
From streetlights being switched off, cuts to PCSO’s, cuts to CCTV monitoring to a failure to consult with town centre residents about St Johns Car Park and the proposed accommodation for over 450 students people are seeing a real failure to consult and listen to the public.
The question is why and how apparently educated and intelligent elected members of parliament and councillors got themselves in such a tangle.
Is it as many people now believe not a result of just “Being Out of Touch” but much worse, that of “Being Arrogant and Out of Touch”, believing that everything can be solved by a PR strategy and that people will forget.
It is a policy that is turning Conservatives against Conservatives as clearly seen by the Northampton South MP’s statements about the Government “having lost the tool box” and comparing the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition Cabinet with “sleazy backstreet second-hand used car salesmen”, a comparison that given what is happening nationally and locally may almost be considered a compliment.
On a positive and optimistic note we may now be seeing the end of policy and politics by PR as the root and branch supporters of all parties and the people of Northampton look for more honest politics, free from spin in which they are listened to and not ignored as they are at present.
I’m sure this will be an ongoing theme in future blogs, in the meantime it will be interesting to see if the political “leopard can change its/ their spots”