Saturday, 16 January 2010

Splash To Backlash

Conservatives hoping to make a big splash by bringing party leader David Cameron to Reading have suffered a backlash from commentators.

The general tone of criticism has been to question the actual level of the engagement demonstrated by the party.

John MacGarvey was "surprised, but not displeased" that the event was able to be rearranged quite so quickly after a previous cancellation - apparently due to the harsh weather. However he was a bit annoyed that the timing and location of the event could have been more convenient.

Even the BBC was caught on the hop, dutifully copying out the general press release that the meeting was to focus on health issues and the NHS rather than be open to any subject.

Labour election candidates Anneliese Dodds and Naz Sarkar challenged the tory leader to a real debate, provocatively claiming the event would have been more accurate if it had been called 'Cameron Select' rather than 'Cameron Direct'.

Cllr Glenn Goodall contrasts Mr Cameron's visit to an earlier visit by LibDem leader Nick Clegg, who ensured plenty of advance notice was given, and who chose the time, location and format of the meeting to ensure members of the public were able to fully engage in two-way communication.

And Jane Griffiths picks up on a report by Natalie Slater that Labour activists picketed the event, who were angry that they had been frozen out. She notes how this isn't the complete truth, as invitations had been sent to selected opponents.

Indeed, Mark Reckons did attend and gives his usual full treatment with a bloggers review of the event.

He says the event provided a 'fascinating perspective' on politics.

After a brief introduction he was able to ask the first question from the floor, asking why the tory leader had changed his position on drugs policy. He describes Mr Cameron's shifty response as a deft and subtle way of avoiding directly answering the question - not once but twice.

He compliments Mr Cameron on an assured and professional political presentation, who is highly personable, but was nevertheless clearly dissatisfied with the overall effect.

Mark was clearly unimpressed by the repetitive focus on current economic constraints and the negative aspects of what he couldn't do rather than any solid policies - even noting an 'odd' admission by the Conservative party leader that he probably wasn't able to convince floating voters in the audience to vote for him.

Mark picked up several stylistic similarities to Tony Blair but concluded that the prospective Prime Minister still has a lot of work to do honing his messages in a way that was to appeal effectively.

Dazmando was also in the audience.

He complains that the venue was pretty small for the number of people who would obviously have been interested in attending and says this had a clear impact on the political balance of the people who were there - which meant the tory leader was given an easy ride as many hot topics (such as gay marriage, the EU and MPs expenses) were not covered at all.

Rounding up, he generously adjudges the tory leader to be sincere and well-meaning, but admits he was frustrated with the evening, just as he is with the current situation in general. He came away only hopeful that he will do a good job if he does end up as the leader of the country after the general election.

And finally we return to John McGarvey for his pronouncement on the Conservative leader. John says he was smooth, but lacking in inspiration.

He says he feels like he didn't learn much from the slightly negative responses and overly-deferential and occasionally fawning crowd... or just maybe that tells you everything you need to know.

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Update: World-renowned communications guru Neville Hobson picks up on the launch of Mr Cameron's poster campaign. He says that reactions range from ridicule... to ridicule.

The Conservative leader is starting out early in his rise to being a figure of fun, and Neville explains that although most of the jokes at his expense are pretty mild they do highlight the problem facing all politicians: the need to be believed and trusted in order that they are taken seriously - which is why the airbrushed photograph is so damaging, as they build up the image of a fake.

Loyal Local MP Wob Wilson gives a glowing tribute to the performance of the man he serves under, but then that's only to be expected.



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Background reading: Tory Target Reading, Cameron Indirectly
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