Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Guess what?

The importance of a narrative part the umpteenth. Since Brown took over as Prime Minister he has been absolutely focused on directing the story - on determining the narrative. This explains the constant reference to 'change' fom the man who has directed domestic policy for a decade. The narrative has been that he is the renewal candidate; that he has eschewed spin for a substantial administration; that he has looked widely to gather his cabinet; and that David Cameron represents the media-driven wishy-washy politics that Blair headed, and to which Brown is the antithesis.
Lo and behold, by virtue of constant repetition, the media have embraced this picture. Now, whatever the reality of the situation, the presentation will be adapted to fit the picture. Look at what, as Prime Minister, Brown has done. He has announced reviews on drug policy, on casinos, on licensing hours, on taxation and on a myriad of things. These announcements have been greeted as proof of his serious grown up politics, and as an end to Blair's knee-jerk policy making. But all they are aare announcements that, at some point, there may or may not be changes to existing policies. There's no action, and no substance. If Cameron, or indeed Blair, had announced them they would have been hailed as further evidence of the desire to control the hedalines over-riding the desire to achieve anything substantial.
Lets look at how Brown's presentational skills are being treated. When Iain Duncan Smith was leader of the Tories his uselessness at the Despatch Box was held up as the prime reason he had to go - he wasn't a serious Parliamentarian. Now Brown is flopping weekly at PMQs, the reaction is that, because he can't match the control that Blair had, and indeed sounds shaky and uncertain off his brief, this somehow proves that he must be a more substantial figure than Cameron, who has had the measure of him.
There is an analogy here with the more enthusiastic proponents of Global Warming: hot, dry summers? Global Warming. Cool, wet summers? Global Warming. Rising temperatures? Global Warmning. Falling temperatures? Global Warming. Once the message has been absorbed, the brain will actively try and make facts fit the patterns. Brown has been excellent at directing where interpretations will go. The question is how long journalists can carry on bending reality to fit perception. After all who are you going to believe - Brown, or your lying eyes?

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