Don’t shoot the messenger, Gordon

I’ve been quite busy in the last few weeks and a bit slack on updating the blog. 
With Roz out of hospital, I’ve finally been getting round to those husband-y tasks that need to be done.
That means assembling filing cabinets, putting boxes away – since my run in Hull and Roz’s illness, we’ve still had a good few boxes of belongings that needed unpacking.

In some ways, we feel we’ve been given permission to live again after existing in limbo for the best past of the year.
But last week has spurred me to get back on the Mac again.

Caroline Flint’s progressive policy on getting first time buyers on the ladder, the workfare reforms and the Youth Action Plan really deserved their fair share of shout.
But instead the whole week has been dominated about the perceived U turn on A&E visits for those charged with knife crime. There’s a lot of good things to be said about restorative justice but in the current climate, this was always going to be a step too far.
I believe ministers didn’t fully sign up to this, but it seems the Home Office press office might have over-spun the proposal,  according to PR Week. 
The lack of clarity on message was typified by Gordon’s visit to the Middle East. When you want to highlight the fact that British troops will be leaving Iraq soon rather than later and a two state solution is within sight, being accidently pictured behind a helicopter-mounted heavy machine gun doesn’t really reinforce the image of a consensus-building country.
Could it be that the people surrounding Gordon don’t feel they have the confidence to highlight all these potential pitfalls?
It’s a necessity for any decent comms person to be that critical friend, to risk the wrath to protect the client’s reputation. For many years I did just that with John. Whilst on occasion  he didn’t like the initial analysis (and that was a bit of an understatement as no-one likes to be told they might be wrong) he respected the opinion of someone outside the bubble.
The Prime Minister has unwittingly of late let himself be ‘defined’ by the media – the election that never was, the 10p tax rate and Northern Rock; though all have rational arguments for delay, all fed the Tory and media line that he was “dithering.”
What No10 needs to do is to stop being LED by the news agenda and start SETTING it. Campbell revealed in his diaries that Blair didn’t devour the news papers and very rarely engaged with broadcast.
So my advice would be: “Gordon, turn off the TV, cancel the papers, bring back the grid and start following your heart-felt principles.” 
And don’t shoot the messenger – work with them.

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