Friday, May 23, 2008

Timing and impact

I meant to blog about this a week ago – which, given the subject of the post, is apt.

Last Wednesday, Gordon Brown set out his draft Queen’s Speech – an innovation he’s used for the second year running, which involves outlining the bills he expects to be in the Queen’s Speech proper several months on.

I’ve nothing against setting proposals out early for consultation, but politically this is obtuse.

When you’re in government, if you want to create an impact with the public (via, inevitably, the media), you should minimise the time between announcing and implementing your policies.

A long gap means that announcements will get less attention, because they relate to so far off in the future – right now, they’re just not relevant. And when that future time does come around, you’ll get less coverage for the implementation because it’s just not news any more, is it? You announced that ages ago.

The exeption to this rule is for controversial proposals, which from the first time they’re floated start to attract flak. The prime example of this is ID cards, which for some years now have existed primarily as an occasional dripping of government statements of intent and a torrent of mostly hostile commentary. Sure, it gets a lot of attention, but the attention isn’t maybe the sort that was desired.

The way to maximise coverage of a policy that you want to get attention is to go for a big initial burst with a sense of urgency – the craftiest way of stringing this out is to contrive the policy’s passage through Parliament to be slow and complex, meaning that delays officially aren’t your fault. Usually you need the help of a dull-witted yet angry opposition to do this.

(Tsk, look at me: blogging about presentation rather than substance. I feel dirty now. I’ve become everything I’ve always hated. Oh well…)

1 comment:

M said...

I agree that it’s a good strategy, but surely Brown is thinking about this another way?

If he wouldn’t let the press and Cameron steer the tone for these things, I think such practices could be backed up by the ‘carrying on with the job’, ‘listening’ message he’s attempting to convey. It’s just poorly executed and wasn’t too beneficial for his mini-campaign to end talk of a new leader.

There was a touch of controversy in Cameron’s flapping that Brown repackaged some Tory ideas- which wasn’t the best move for Cameron. The, ‘Tories have no policies!’ cry can stick for now and both sides can go back to the drawing boards a bit; so I don’t think it was a terrible move for Brown. Also, he may have thought it would have lessened the Crewe and Nantwich; but that too was lessened with a Cameron attack…

I obviously don’t follow these things as closely as any UK bloggers would, but from what I remember it’d appear he was overshadowed by beauty and his beast, Caroline Flint and an economic forecast, presentation and substance?