Does having policies matter any more?

Does having policies matter any more?

cameron and borwn with babies.jpg

    Isn’t it all about image and being seen as a nice caring person?

One of my favourite contributors on PB.C is David Kendrick who pops up several times a week to make the simple argument that policies and issues play little part in deciding elections. Everything is down to whether voters like the party leaderships and that is mostly determined by how they look, talk and present themselves.

Certainly the 7% lead Tory lead recorded in today Indpendent “poll of polls” has been achieved without the new leader having to commit himself on almost anything. This has not stopped recent surveys showing that his party is now leading on the three major domestic issues of health, education and law and order.

Wasn’t the secret of Tony Blair’s electoral successes the fact that he persuaded large sections of the public, particularly those who’d never voted Labour before, that he could be trusted because his whole style and image suggested he shared their concerns and held the same views.

    Ah, I can hear you saying, won’t Cameron get caught out at some stage? He can’t go on forever, surely, being able to duck out of all policy issues by talking about the special commissions that he has set up?

Well he might but then he might not. What both Blair and Cameron realised is that the vast bulk of people pay almost no attention to politics or political news.

Many people’s impressions are formed from 15 second clips in TV news programmes or a passing glimpse of the front page headline as they flick through the paper to find today’s Suduku puzzles, read the latest on Wayne’s foot or see the gossip on the Big Brother house.

This is being reinforced by the digital television age which is reducing even further the proportion of the population who have exposure to news and current affairs programming. If you watch SkySports, MTV or E4 all the time you never even get a fleeting glance of a news programme.

The pictures at the top of this story get looked at far more than shots from the House of Commons. It’s all about the mood and politicians who can manage that, like Blair and now Cameron, stand a better chance of success.

    This is all a hard one for a person like me and, I guess, others on the site to swallow. Policy only matters when it starts to affect the overall mood and tone of what the bulk of electors ever manage to see. If a policy issue creates bad headlines on the front pages of the red tops then, but only then, is it a problem

What’s going to help Labour in the next month is the World Cup. It will knock out all the negative stories that have been dominating the little news that people see and could affect the whole mood of the nation. And if England win and Tony manages the team’s homecoming right then that should see Labour, and his leadership, safely through the summer.

Mike Smithson

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