Daniel Finkelstein wrote an interesting Comment piece (£) in The Times today. Observations on the current PR disaster for the banks and how it had become a political scandal. I liked his thoughts on public perceptions of national events and how the public are too busy to clue up on the gritty details of what’s going and hence the general impression of these events is what really counts.
As with the BSkyB affair, this one is complex and voters probably couldn’t explain it to you (LIBOR?) but nevertheless they understand that all is not right. Similarly, if Labour keep banging on about incompetence, omnishambles and ‘U-turns’, through an osmotic effect, voters get that impression and there’s the chance it will stick. So in the morass of information and spin of today, with all newspapers guilty of some degree of slanting, it seems like the only way for a government to speak directly and persuasively to a voter is through cold, hard reality. That means money in pockets and excellent public services. You can do all the PR you want but there’ll always be interests out there trying to warp and block you. Best to use your actions to speak loudest.
Meanwhile, Cameron’s got his knickers in a twist on Europe. I think Europe is another issue where most people are pretty ambivalent and they yawn at the complexities. But it’s also an issue where the vacuum of knowledge on the part of the British voter makes it ideal for vested interests to lead the masses in a certain direction. We are sheep and all we need is a shepherd. But Cameron doesn’t seem like a shepherd at the moment (again, it’s all about impression) – commentators paint a man prevaricating and flip-flopping, not a leader at all. And that’s not an impression you want if you’re PM.
The truth is Dave’s in an awful position. The situation in Europe is changing by the day so we don’t know what we’d be opting in or out of. It’s a mess. I wish Dave would just show some balls and take a strong position now, something like: ‘We’re happy to give the British people a referendum on membership of the European Union when the time is right. But the time isn’t right now and we’ll be reviewing the situtation on a bi-monthly basis.’ End of discussion. For now, let’s get back to deficit reduction, Syria, sorting out the eurozone and reforming public services.