Reports have popped up this morning after the announcement that Downing St is to review its press lobby methods and the rumours are Peter Mandelson may become the second most visible government member behind Gordon Brown, if he wasn’t already, by giving weekly televised press briefings.
Of course, this is tip of the hat to the fact that Brown is not the great communicator that Tony Blair was, but we all knew that. Having Mandy effectively as Press Secretary, is an extremely clever move.
But the PMOS’ briefings are daily but don’t necessarily sell Government policy, although naturally it does toe the party line as you would expect. It is more reactive rather than proactive process, fielding questions from the press regarding policies and issues of the day to clarify or confirm, not necessarily sell. The meatier issues are announced at the PM’s monthly press conference or during any ad hoc policy announcements or press conferences.
But from what I’ve read, televised, weekly press conferences would be designed to explain the Government’s messages and policies in the run up to the next election. This will be especially useful to highlight the budget bonanza that I think we can all expect from the Government, especially if the UK is showing growth as has been predicted.
What is missing from the Labour Government at the moment is a clear and effective messenger. The policies are there, but they are being lost in a sea of errors and poor news cycles, the mums.net biscuit farce and the Gordon Brown condolence letter are perfect examples. A messenger is the key.
It is common knowledge that Mandy is one of the smoothest political operators around. Whether you like him or loathe him, that’s a pretty universally view, especially amongst MPs I’ve spoken to. If you watch him against the hardest journalists like Jeremy Paxman or Andrew Marr, he still somehow charms them.
With Mandy helping to sell the message on a weekly basis, this could maybe get Labour back on message.