Tuesday, 17 April 2012

That hole, Prime Minister, is a credibility gap!


Troubling times for the Coalition with a series of ‘presentational’ or PR gaffes that have led to the inevitable headlines that the honeymoon is well and truly over. Pasty-gate, charitable giving, jerry cans and the Granny Tax not only provide plenty of headlines, but also give the Eds (Miliband and Balls) an opportunity for a photoshoot at Greggs.

However, it would be wrong to blame the Government’s PR for this (although one suspects the No.10 communication team has had a bit of a roasting recently). The sense I have is that something more strategic is going wrong. Charitable giving appears to cut directly across the Big Society programme. Whacking pensioners threatens the “we are all in this together” reasoning behind the austerity programme (and I suspect threatens to drive a large percentage of those who actually bother to vote into the arms of UKIP).

Next up, I suspect, is the Green Deal. According to the Sunday Telegraph there is currently a battle royal going on between the Treasury and the rest of the Coalition about the Government’s flagship environmental initiative. The Chancellor and a number of other Conservative MPs want it scrapped. The Deputy Prime Minister on the other hand made a major speech last week, which can be read HERE, telling us all that it would revolutionise how we heat our homes. Scrapping it would be rather uncomfortable for a Prime Minister who came into office promising to be the “Greenest Government Ever”.

Now, the Green Deal isn’t perfect and privately many across the building sector (and many MPs) will express deep reservations. I specifically recall one former MP telling me that even a slight move in interest rates in a northward direction will turn the scheme from a ‘Pay As You Save’ scheme into a ‘Pay As You Pay’ scheme.

The point is, this has the potential to be the latest gap between PR and policy, what the American writer Walter Lippmann would have called a ‘credibility gap’ where rhetoric fails to match reality. Whilst I do not expect the Green Deal’s demise to bring down the Coalition, the yawning gaps that keep appearing all have a corrosive effect and can perhaps explain Labour’s current position in the polls.

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