Archive for Coalition Government

It’s the swearing that will get Mitchell, not just the plebs!

Posted in Politics with tags , , , on September 25, 2012 by Tom Leatherbarrow

One of the great joys of the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, which I visited on my honeymoon (my wife’s a lucky girl!) is how the Watergate scandal is presented to visitors.

After a tour through Nixon’s triumphs, the Kitchen Debate; the Silent Majority Speech; détente with Russia, rapprochement with China, you finally come to a long, dark tunnel which houses the Watergate exhibits.

Here, you can listen to the tapes, secretly recorded in the Oval Office.  Interestingly, many of these specially selected titbits have also had to be redacted to blot out Nixon’s swearing.

Watergate is complex but there is one thing most historians agree on, namely that the extent of Nixon’s swearing did for him just as much as any cover-up.  It was Nixon who introduced the term “expletive deleted” into the English language which, crucially, was at odds with his public persona of a god-fearing Quaker.

Which brings us neatly to Andrew Mitchell, chief whip of the Conservative Party, who has been accused of calling a policeman a “pleb” for refusing let him ride his bike out of the gates of 10 Downing Street.

Today’s revelations in the Telegraph from a police log of the incident are not good reading for Mr Mitchell.  Not only did he call the policeman a pleb, but the police also allege he included the phrase as part of a Gordon Ramsey-esque rant.

According to the police log, Mr Mitchell said the following (I have used Watergate-style deletions to protect the faint of heart):

“Best you learn your [expletive deleted] place … you don’t run this [expletive deleted] government … You’re [expletive deleted] plebs.”

Now I don’t take the view that the police are infallible, not after Hillsborough, phone hacking and Ian Tomlinson, but I’m not sure that a policeman doing his best to protect 10 Downing Street deserves this sort of rant.

I also suspect that Middle England, where elections are won and lost, still respects the rule of law and won’t take kindly to this either.  What’s more, I suspect it is female voters, who Mr Cameron is already struggling to connect with, who will be most repulsed.

That hole, Prime Minister, is a credibility gap!

Posted in Politics, PR with tags , , , , , on April 17, 2012 by Tom Leatherbarrow

Troubling times for the Coalition with a series of ‘presentational’ or PR gaffes that have led to the inevitable headlines that the honeymoon is well and truly over.  Pasty-gate, charitable giving, jerry cans and the Granny Tax not only provide plenty of headlines, but also give the Eds (Miliband and Balls) an opportunity for a photoshoot at Greggs.

However, it would be wrong to blame the Government’s PR for this (although one suspects the No.10 communication team has had a bit of a roasting recently).  The sense I have is that something more strategic is going wrong.  Charitable giving appears to cut directly across the Big Society programme.  Whacking pensioners threatens the “we are all in this together” reasoning behind the austerity programme (and I suspect threatens to drive a large percentage of those who actually bother to vote into the arms of UKIP).

Next up, I suspect, is the Green Deal.  According to the Sunday Telegraph there is currently a battle royal going on between the Treasury and the rest of the Coalition about the Government’s flagship environmental initiative.  The Chancellor and a number of other Conservative MPs want it scrapped.  The Deputy Prime Minister on the other hand made a major speech last week, which can be read HERE, telling us all that it would revolutionise how we heat our homes.  Scrapping it would be rather uncomfortable for a Prime Minister who came into office promising to be the “Greenest Government Ever”.

Now, the Green Deal isn’t perfect and privately many across the building sector (and many MPs) will express deep reservations.  I specifically recall one former MP telling me that even a slight move in interest rates in a northward direction will turn the scheme from a ‘Pay As You Save’ scheme into a ‘Pay As You Pay’ scheme.

The point is, this has the potential to be the latest gap between PR and policy, what the American writer Walter Lippmann would have called a ‘credibility gap’ where rhetoric fails to match reality.  Whilst I do not expect the Green Deal’s demise to bring down the Coalition, the yawning gaps that keep appearing all have a corrosive effect and can perhaps explain Labour’s current position in the polls.