Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Alice Puts Her Finger On It

Alice Thompson bemoans the focus on personality rather than policy:

'In some ways, this new fascination is good for the Tories. It shows that they are not irrelevant, that the country needs an opposition and that people are still interested in who is going to save the party. But if the Tories want to be seen as a serious force, they need to look more like a David Hare play and less like Big Brother. They must engage in weightier issues than whether the candidates went to a comprehensive or Eton, or whether they changed a nappy in Nottingham or Notting Hill.'

Yes, well, Alice- I'm sorry to break the bad news, but there's a teensy problemette. As Mrs T keeps telling me, only a few weird people like me are interested in policy. For the rest- and I have to say, the media in particular- policy is monstrously tedious. Personality is much more immediate, particularly when it's part of a BB knock-out contest. It's also much easier for you journos to deal with- you don't need to get on top of the issues.

For example, DD gave two excellent policy speeches in Blackpool, followed by floor questions- you may have been there. I thought they were great, packed full of good red meat; but the press reaction was almost universally negative- biggest yawn since the Epilogue. His main platform speech was also at least 50% policy...and we all know how that was treated by your esteemed colleagues.

In contrast, DC's conference pitches (ex those synthetic phonics thingies) were not policy at all. They were such stuff as dreams are made on, designed to present a young prince who has single-handedly "reinvented politics". The members loved it, and- admit it- you journos loved it.

'Whoever it is, the finals must not be a repeat of Big Brother, or degenerate into How Clean is Your House? The hustings must be about policy. Mr Davis will need to show why he is different from William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard. Mr Cameron will need to spell out why he isn't just another Tony Blair.'

Alice- your finger's found the right spot, but don't hold your breath.
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