Jonathan Freedland, writing in The Guardian, states ‘David Cameron is a mess. When will the media say so?’
It is a question I have been asking for some time, and it is nice to be joined by someone from The Guardian, some of whose reporters and commentators have been as much a part of the ‘give Dave an easy ride’ crew as the Murdoch press, the Mail, the Telegraph, the Beeb and the other broadcasters.
What is interesting, however, is that even with the tamest media coverage of any leader in our political lifetime, with both print and broadcast media applying until recently permanent double standards to the two main parties – roughly summed up Labour can do no right, the Tories can do no wrong – the question may not be as important as its placing on The Guardian’s front page might suggest.
Because as so often, the public appear to be ahead of the press on this one. That may explain the narrowing of the polls.
As Cameron may be the next prime minister, many organisations are conducting polling about him and his party. I have seen several such analyses including one, done by a private sector organisation last night, which asked people in focus groups to say what they liked, and what they didn’t like, about Mr Cameron.
The positives are almost all about either his age or his presentation skills, with comments like ‘well presented … presentable … a good talker … has energy/charisma … good in argument … more personality than the others (Tory leaders)’
The only comments that might be termed to be rooted in policy were these … he wants to cut taxes, and he praises the NHS.
Now let’s go to the negatives – ‘no substance … flaky … bit smarmy … too smooth … toff … doesn’t live in our world … does not understand the working class … can’t trust him … doesn’t have any policies … seems Tory old school … bandwagon-jumper … inexperienced … not serious … says what he thinks people want to hear … got it wrong on the economy … argues for the sake of it … just says the opposite of what Labour does … all about presentation … childish … plays to the crowd.’
There is still very little awareness of any of his policy proposals but when policies are explained – particularly his inheritance tax proposals, and his refusal to match some of Labour’s public services pledges – there is a shift away from him. The lack of policy is being seen as a form of dishonesty, that Cameron cannot say what he would do because he knows it will not be popular, and so instead he tries to make it all about presentation and communications, and the likeability of the two leaders.
It is a strategy that has served him reasonably well till now. But as I have said on here many times, it was never going to be enough. He has not done the hard graft that makes people feel he is earning his victory. That too feeds the feeling that he has a sense of entitlement , which in turn reminds people of the privileged background he is keen to airbrush from his profile.
The coverage of Cameron and his so-called modernisation has been a really bad chapter in the UK media’s history. There are signs that the pressure on him is beginning to mount and, though he seemed in confident form at PMQs today – extraordinary though it is how terrified he is to debate the economy – there are also signs that he is not very good at dealing with that pressure. As Freedland says, had a Labour opposition leader been responsible for the kind of muddle Cameron and Osborne have got themselves into on public spending, he would have been shredded by now.
Freedland also points out the way the media put next to no pressure on Cameron and William Hague to give straight answers to straight questions about the tax status of their bankroller and policy influencer Lord Ashcroft. Were this a Labour story, we would never hear the end of it. So with The Guardian appearing to recognise it’s and others’ failings in their coverage of the Tories, why don’t they undertake to ask those questions about Ashcroft, and find ways of writing about the non-answers, every day until Cameron is forced to tell the truth? If they put their minds to it, that should not be too difficult.
** Nice to see the messages on FB and twitter that the first of the books have arrived, so the system is working! Remember, it is £15 for an individually signed copy of The Blair Years, half of which will be donated to the Party. For details go to
Bang on AC —- I work in a travel agency, with about ten people in there, mainly not political (though I am – party member). Can’t say they have much time for Brown, but they can’t stand Cameron. I just asked them ‘if I say Cameron, what is the first thing that comes to mind’ – most were not printable. Knobhead was quite common. But more seriously, lots about him being a toff, and lots about him trying to pretend he is something he isn’t. Keep at them. They don’t like it. Knowing that people don’t like them
When I saw the latest Ashcroft story, about his travelling with Hague on official visits, I thought at last, this will become a story the TV and radio have to cover. Not a bit of it. Our media is only interested in stories that damage Labour. I was glad to see Obama attacking the media for its role in the financial crisis. More power to your elbow in pointing out their failure to operate as they should in a democracy
Great news! This idea that British people are going to take complete leave of their senses and vote for an inadequate like Cameron on Murdoch and other journos’ say so is utterly ridiculous.
Excellent piece AC. I am alarmed at the way Cameron has got away with so much nonsense for so long. He is policy-lite and where they have been spelt out in any way are baffling and alarming. And I find him an utter slimeball as well. Not good.
5 More years of Gordon. Hurrah!!
Being the Leader of Her Majesty’s official opposition party David Cameron is saying so little about anything whatsoever it’s hard to get one’s head around just what it is he’s actually opposed to.
Her Maj should should haul him up under the trades description act.
It is inconceivable that any sensible voter would prefer 5 more years of Gordon Brown to almost any available alternative. Tony Blair was untried when you attached yourself to him.
By saddling themselves to this wierdo, Labour have sealed their own fate.
Anyone as dedicated as Gordon BRown has been all his life to helping others is bound to seem strange to the nasty party, most of whose followers think altruism is a tax strategy.
While it is obvious why the right-wing press is easy on Cameron it’s really hard to know why Cameron gets such a light ride from the rest of the media.
I think that Conservative party enthusiasts are very fast to accuse anyone of bias against them, whereas Labour party people are used to it. With the continuous assault on Labour and its values from the right-wing press then we Labour types get used to sort of shrugging our shoulders when we see bias rather than taking it on.
Conservative party types are continuously reinforced by the right-wing press and so have an expectation that the other press should also reinforce them. When they hear an objective piece on the BBC which criticises them in some way I guess they phone in etc, because they are not used to being criticised and they feel it is their right not to be criticised.
One of the first times that a newspaper article put me close to tears was in about 1973 during the three day week when the miners were trying to get a wage that reflected the horrors of their industry.
Ann Clwyd wrote a piece in The Guardian about a pit disaster that had just occurred explaining that the miners were good people – lions of men – whatever was said about them in the press.
This same lady – Ann Clwyd MP – has just given evidence to the Chilcot enquiry on the years of abuse of the Iraqi people by Saddam and his regime.
Yet what weight will her words carry in this climate?
Especially set beside those of a starlet bully.
Ann Clwyd is one of life’s gems who should be admired by all Socialists and whose evidence will be overwhelmed in the press by the flavour of the day.
what about the blatant mis-use of crime figures by the tories! this is scandlous, and would be all over the front pages if Brown would have been caught doing this…
Grayling and Cameron have compared crime figures which simply cannot be compared due to a change to a standardised way of recodring violent crime. When Grayling was asked if he knew about the change in recording method he declined to comment. now considering how haphazard the tories are at the moment i would not be surprised if the shadow home secretary didnt know about the change in recording method, which has implications for his ability to do the job, but even if you give him the benefit of the doubt and say he did know about the change it amounts to calculated use of false data, with a possible more worrying implication.
fact is data suggests violent crime is down and blows another hole in the tory election strategy of a broken society…the country is not so broken and therefore it doesnt need fixing by a tory party that couldnt organise a party in portcullis house! (this happened when they had guests lined up outside because they hadnt told security)
5 more years of brown & we wont have a country left the man has been a f***ing disaster he is a coward ,liar cheat bully what have we ever done to deserve this man?
Yes I’ve been reading about this on the ‘net. I think Grayling must have thought he could get away with that blatant, and massive, statistical dishonesty. I guess he thought he could get away with it because the press just seem to have ignored the series of Conservative party gaffs so Chris Grayling might have thought, let’s try just good old fashioned lying.
There is some press interest now that, wait for it, Iain Duncan Smith, has been commenting on it!
Personally I think that the Conservative party is in huge disarray. I think that Conservative party central office is full of panic and strife.
How I wish some journalist would take some interest in this…
Keep it up Ally, they are starting to crack, this could be a Devon Loch election result.
Cameron, Osborne and Hague, the Curly, Larry and Mo of British politics.