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Mick Temple’s Blog

CAM CONFERENCE COMETH

30-09-2008

David Cameron

Two down, one to go. Not conferences – they’re largely irrelevant nowadays. It’s leaders’ speeches that matter, and with David Cameron due to deliver in Birmingham tomorrow, Mick Temple reads the runes (as well as shamelessly plugging his new book!)

The speech has to reach beyond the faithful in the conference hall – pause for hysterical laughter at the idea that Labour has a ‘faithful’ - and connect with voters in their homes.

But seeing that most voters are not at home during the afternoon, and even if they were they’d be more likely to be watching the Paint-Drying Channel than blanket conference coverage, it’s how a leader’s speech is interpreted by the political commentators that matters.

Television news has brief highlights, radio bulletins offer sound-bites at best and the quality press no longer carries the full text. The tabloids are more interested in Lindsay Lohan’s lesbian liaisons than Brown battling back. In addition, press commentators are pre-programmed to take the piss. And how can anyone regard the former Thatcherite firebrand Nick Robinson as a balanced observer?

So the impression we get of our leaders’ performances is incomplete and heavily mediated by those who tend to have a vested interest in portraying our representatives as totally useless.

The pack verdict on that LibDem bloke was that he’d ‘done alright’ but not enough to transform his party’s prospects or even make us remember his name.

The verdict on Brown was inevitably more complicated. Most commentators though it was a decent performance by Brown’s standards, but Brown’s standards are not high enough for 21st century politics. A personality is the minimum requirement for modern electoral success.

Being introduced by ‘er indoors was a clever American touch that helped to humanise him but did we have to have the kiss? Blair could have pulled it off, even when faced with a wide-mouthed frog, but Brown, no matter how hard he tries (and he does try) can’t convince with the ‘touchy-feely’ stuff.

So, next up, Lord Snooty and his pals. Cameron should be made for this environment. He’s superficial, policy-lite, can change position on an issue with the prevailing wind, and looks the sort of agreeable cove any parent would be glad to see escorting a beloved daughter.

But is that enough to be Prime Minister? Even personality politics demands some substance. We need to believe that beneath the froth there is at least the semblance of a platform to govern. I’ve said this before, but it still needs saying. Where’s the bloody beef? Cameron and Co must deliver some red meat soon.

AND: STOP PRESS …. For those of you interested, my new book The British Press has been published this week - more information available on the link: www.openup.co.uk/temple

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