Monday, 4 January 2010

David Cameron – our political saviour or transparent PR man?

No sooner had the year begun than David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, fired the first shot in what will soon degenerate into an ill-tempered battle for victory in the forthcoming election. Those who took the time to listen to his speech on Saturday couldn’t possibly have failed to notice the overriding use of the word ‘change’ in Cameron’s rhetoric, an idea which will surely appeal to the electorate. However no matter how much change Cameron promises, there are a number of people beginning to question such vague promises and declarations. Such individuals, myself included, would prefer to hear actual policy declarations detailing exactly what the party aims to do and how it intends to do it. Unfortunately Cameron is clearly a graduate of the Tony Blair school of spin and excessive reliance on shady PR gurus in order to portray an image of strength, trustworthiness and political nous. Whilst Gordon Brown could certainly do with extensive rebranding, he does come across as an altogether more honest figure, although unfortunately this may not be enough to distract attention from his less than impressive record as Prime Minister.

The fact is that Modern politics has increasingly become dominated by sinister, Machiavellian public relations masters such as Alastair Campbell, and politicians for whom public image and appearance have usurped actual policies and integrity as the most important factors for acquiring public support. Unfortunately for Cameron he comes across as little more than an Old Etonian relying on “the most prestigious of old-boy networks in his attempt to return the Tories to power”. Whilst his assertion that Brown is “an analogue politician in a digital age” is one only the staunchest of the Prime Minister’s followers would take issue with, I believe Cameron ought to dedicate his efforts more towards coal-face politics than the PR game. The concept of a ‘war cabinet’ revealed in Cameron’s speech will bring hope to those desperate for greater cross-party coordination on foreign policy, however even the least cynical of observers may feel it is nothing more than another example of political one-upmanship.

I would love to believe the Conservatives’ wonderful promises of a “fairer, safer, green country where opportunity is more equal”, and as such I hope Cameron is able to provide a realistic manifesto for change and progress. With the forthcoming election vital in so many ways to the future of the country Cameron must deliver on his promises of “a bright economic future”. Charisma and popular appeal were enough for Tony Blair to claim a historic victory in the 1997 general election, and remove a tired, ineffective Conservative administration torn apart by crippling internal disputes. Analysing ‘New’ Labour’s triumph, some commentators pointed to the fact that voters were simply desperate for change following eighteen years of Conservative Party rule. Cameron will be hoping to exploit any similar dissatisfaction amongst the electorate over the coming months, and that his message of ‘change’, ‘hope’ and ‘progress’ will produce a landslide victory for the Conservatives.

The economy will be the key electoral battleground, and it will certainly prove intriguing as to whether the British public will acquiesce with the Labour Party’s plea to stop the Conservatives “ruining” the economic recovery. What is clear is that in the midst of a severe recession the choice being afforded to voters at the next election will be unsatisfactory for many. Under the leadership of Gordon Brown the country has been plagued by a crippling recession from which our European partners have long since recovered, but we remain deeply mired in. Whilst David Cameron can promise change until it goes out of fashion but the fact remains that Conservative promises, particularly those regarding the economy, are at times vague and at others pipe-dreams. One can only hope the British public are able to choose between the two futures, and read between the lines of spin and unrealistic promises to find the most suitable candidate to lead the country through this difficult time.

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