Thursday, October 13, 2005

More On That Media Mauling

Peter Oborne ponders what actually happened up there beside the seaside:

'The events of 4 and 5 October in Blackpool were the most astonishing in my lifetime as a political reporter.

The skills of the traditional political reporter are not merely inadequate, but actually present an obstacle to understanding what happened. In conventional terms David Davis made no worse than a moderate speech, and David Cameron was no better than good. The best effort of all, by far, came from Ken Clarke, and little help it did him.

...the literary theorist Stanley Fish turned his attention to cases like these. Fish has helpfully produced the useful concept of the ‘interpretative communities’, capable of reaching powerful judgments which are nevertheless dramatically at variance with the real meaning of the text. The interpretative community which confounded David Davis during those definitive 24 hours was the media. On the evening of David Cameron’s alleged triumph one journalist was heard saying to another, ‘Tomorrow’s story: Davis bombs.’ The following morning, as Davis strolled to the podium, a Guardian reporter turned to a friend and remarked, ‘He’s like a condemned man going to the gallows.’

The prophecy became self-fulfilling. As the long, sustained applause died down after Davis’s speech the broadcasters went straight to work.'

Actually, as we've noted previously, the political media had already got stuck in before DC ever spoke, but let that pass. Oborne- a disappointed Ken man- concludes:

'David Cameron, the new favourite to become Tory leader, is to all intents and purposes a fiction. He is the author of a brilliant speech which never really happened, a man of dazzling talents that he does not possess. The real Cameron, of course, staggers on under the burden of artifice and interpretation. How well he lives with this weird new identity will determine the result next week and, who knows, maybe the election in four years’ time.'

What a sad old cynic Oborne must be. Can't he recognise magic when he sees it?

PS For another fix on Dave C, take a look at Andrew's excellent post on Once More:

'I urge everyone to think carefully before casting a vote for DC. Do we want to spend the next few months basking in sunshine of positive media while Cameron is given all the space he needs to start creating that compelling narrative that the journo's ache to report, only to find ourselves a few years into government being led by a man whose only principle seems to be the Blairite 'whatever works', even when 'whatever works' is anything but what gets implemented? Or do we want to tough it out for a few years under Davis, working hard to sell our message into areas we simply haven't been able or willing to in the last decade or two, but then finding ourselves in government with a real agenda, a mandate, and a commitment to see it through?

Style or substance, people. That's what it boils down to. Until I see that Cameron has got something more than a decent looking wife, a media friendly smile and a vague commitment to 'modernisation', whatever that means, I can't in all good conscience vote for him. Daniel Finkelstein decried commentators this week for urging Cameron to 'put some meat on the policy bones'. At this point, I'd settle for the bones, because at the moment, he's just an empty shell.'


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