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"It's not the easiest message to communicate

And there lies the fatal flaw.

It will be impossible to avoid reduced spending being reported as a cut, as compared to Labour's intended spend, it clearly is for all intents and purposes a cut.

The aim should be to target cuts the public would support (bureaucratic expenditure) and to be on their side and bold about it.

If the Tories are not bold and clear about their intentions, clearly it will confuse the public and be open to misreporting.

You can't blame the media for this, this blame lies squarely with CCHQ.

I disagree. It shouldn't be impossible to argue that there is a middle way between spending cuts and large spending increases; a policy of modest spending growth. Broadcasters who say that the Tories plan to cut spending are simply wrong. Producers and reporters need to know they are being watched. This isn't some small matter. It's central to the choice at the next election.

The whole issue of specific economies is another matter. We'll have to wait for Letwin's review to know what they are.


It shouldn't be impossible, but why try paddling upstream?

If you can't summarise a policy in 3 three words, you'll fall into the John Kerry verbosity type complication that will just pass the public by and be misreported.

Focus on those 3 words. Then look at them at see if they are attention grabbing.

If you can do that, you'll find that the press inadvertently help you by lifting the 3-word phrase as it will be potent, short and clear.

This policy in 3 words is 'Increase spending less'. Take that out onto the street and ask a public that is generally cynical of politicians what they thinks it means.

With the current public distaste of 'fat cats', the clear joy in some sectors at the fate of bankers, identifying the fattest quango cats then pledging to cut their budgets could really win public support.

What would resonate with the public more do you think 'War on Waste' or 'Increase Spending Less'?

You may be right GB£. This is where market research is indispensable. Not in telling a politician what their policy should be but how to most effectively present it. The Tories have decided to increase spending less AND attack waste. I hope they are investing in good advice on how best to present that message.

This is why this move, celebrated with such self regarding gusto by this site, will prove politically disastrous. Labour can bring out all their old lines about cuts and the media will follow. A political disaster for the party.

Do you only believe in easy arguments and popular principles Georger?

The problem I have is that I don't have confidence in Osborne etc to get a complex message across against the talents of Mandelson and co who have a simple message to sell - the Conservatives will spend less than Labour.

Until we have a costed plan where we will differ from Labour spending plans, they can imply we will cut education/health etc.

"but mainstream braoadcasters should not be reinforcing Labour's narrative."

Unfortunately the way this has been announced more or less invites Labour to raise the spectre of the Conservatives cutting, slashing and burning their way through schools'n'hospitals, for yesterday Cameron failed to put any substance (other than sound bites) as to why he thought future spending plans couldn't be afforded, neither did he give any clue where he thought the spending cuts would fall.

But this also requires Conservative MP's and Party to be ready to challenge Labour lies, unfortunately , by the failure of Conservative MP's to demolish Labours debt to GDP claim, we see they are a pretty lazy bunch, so its likely Labour and their acolytes, like the BBC, will get away with anything they like to claim on the subject.

Tim is right. This is sort of procedure followed routinely during General Elections.

Unfortunately CCHQ press operation seems to be not firing of late. I don't know if good publicity earlier in the year went to their heads.

Its always easier during good time than hard but the only answer is to work harder.

The last time there was significant failure under DC senior press people were removed and replaced. (Autumn 2007) So he obviously keeps an eye on these things.

This time round though the "Tory black hole in their plans" nonsense can hardly (properly) stick given the ever-expanding gulf at the centre of the public finances being a central part of Mr Brown's stated policy.

He is in a bit of a pickle. He wants to announce cuts to please the Tory faithful (who knows, be might even want to make cuts), but doesn't want to frighten the horses. So, he's fudged things by making them sound like cuts, when all he is really saying it that he will increase spending less than Labour. The message is very muddled. He couldn't say "Tories are committed to increasing public expenditure, but by a bit less than Labour, and committed to borrowing, but a bit less than Labour." It sounds weak and pathetic (it is weak and pathetic)

Some suggestions:

Everyone is clear about what a freeze is. It means no more (but no less) expenditure. The media couldn't really typify a freeze as a cut. Then announce that mainline budgets will increase but "waste", "form filling bureacracy" and a simplification of the tax regime will cut public expenditure. So public expenditure on things people care about will increase, but there will be room for tax cuts.

You've made it clear here time and time again that the appetite for public spending has been destroyed in a feast of wasteful expenditure, and a promise of lower public expenditure and lower taxation will be a vote winner. So let's see some courage! Low tax, low spend, small goverment, real choice for the voters.

CCHQ should have had an idiots guide to Cameron's announcement ready to go to all the major broadcasters.

I can't help but feel that this problem is of their own making.

I seem to remember an interviewer patiently putting Tony Blair right before the last election when the latter claimed (as Labour will again) that the tories would slash vital public services. The interviewer pointed out that the tories had stated they would increase public spending by less than Labour.

"if you can't summarise a policy in 3 three words" as GB£.com so rightly states, you are liable to misinterpretation. Although I have been very critical of GO (and rightly so in my opinion), he is spot on with his phrase about Brown's "fiscal incontinence". Brilliant.

A pity that voters don't associate our domestic recession with Gordon Brown: "Brown's boom and bust" or "Brown's recession". We have a lot of work to do.


It was Nick Robinson - who took on Brown and Blair on their claims of Tory cuts - following Tory rebuttals.

It will be time consuming but so long as they have somebody tough rebutting these claims the message will get through with repetition.

I think there is still a bit of work to do reforming CCHQ. There have been a lot of silly things rcently - leaked memos, awful response to yacht coverage, not getting case across etc.

can't help feeling there has been a bit of compacency. that was certainly the impression at Conference.

Increase Spending less.
Cut Waste not Key Services.

Identify a few areas that most people would agree are not vital and be bold about that being where money will not be going under Conservatives.

"Cut Waste not Key Services.

No 'nots'!

See George Lakoff. Save the negatives for the opposition, always keep your message 100% positive.

May Idare suggest a meeting with the BBC to get there minds clear.Then ignore Michael Crick and Heffer.The interpretation these two so called reporters give us is second only to the Campbell& Mandelson team.

all New_nu_lab have to do is get a list of the local schools & hospitals in their area
and pledge to no Cuts & ask the Nu_con candidate for the same, if they can't he/she is sunk!

No time for a novice.

Tim, you should run a poll asking members if they think CCHQ are pouncing on the media over this kind of misreporting.

I bet they are not.

Mapa [at 10:44]:

"New_nu_lab have to do is get a list of the local schools & hospitals in their area and pledge to no Cuts ....."

and continue with wasteful bloated administration that is ponderous and inept, mismanagement of the health service, failing educational standards and nu_lab is sunk....

torpedoed by fiscal mismanagement, irresponsible immigration, etc. and they are beyond resuscitation.

Teck, ...

hence only 3% behind with tax cuts to come.

New_nu_lab is simply in damage control with their primary objective is NOC.

Grauniad style typos:



Agree with GB£ that the message must be short and clear but I don't think "Increase spending less" hits the spot.

Surely even the thickest voter ( and let's face it most are) can grasp the difference between running fast and running slower - and accept that you are still running !

So how about "A Slower rate of spending increase"

Why don;t the Tories pledge to BEAT Labour's spending on Schools and hospitals? there's so much scope for savings elswhere in Labour Britain they could probably make that commitment and still cut taxes for ordinary people permanently. This would also silence Labour scaremongering about service cuts....

I partially agree with what GB£.com said at the top of the comments, but I also agree with Tim.

First of all I have to say that I NEVER watch BBC news or Newsnight these days (actually I DO NOT want to be indoctrinated by the likes of Kirsty Wark, I have as good or better brain than her, and can make my own judgements, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!), (Humph that feels better I hadn't meant to say that!). To get back to business.

I find that even the reporters on ITV News can misrepresent the current Conservative policies - I don't think that they necessarily mean to. For instance, if cuts to the 'public sector' are mentioned they are likely to assume that that means 'nurses and teachers' first and foremost.

I think, probably, one of the problems, with the more independant news stations is that, there is only a 'timed slot' to fit the 'soundbite' in, so that frequently the 'soundbite' ends up NOT reflecting what has actually been said by Mr. Cameron. Now obviously, I am suggesting that on the BBC that is more likely to be deliberate, but I do feel that on ITV at least, quite often it is not!!

As far as I know Mr. Cameron has not EVER suggested or even mentioned the words 'nurses and teachers' together with job cuts. Somehow CCHQ has to devise a 'sooundbite' on a proposed policy that cannot possibly by reduced to 'cutting nurses and teachers jobs'!!

Mr. Brown's spinmachine (with the help of the BBC of course!!!!) can manage to concoct absolutely misleading soundbites for the politically innocent public!!!!!

In the medium term spending restraints are the right policy to pursue . Let the medi misrepresent it if they want , the reality is that in about 6 months time , once Labours borrowing binge is underway we will have the Pound below parity against the Euro and uk Sovereign risk greatly increased with higher long term interest rates to boot . This will vindicate Cameron's position. You can fool the media , even the public for a while but as we are seeing you cannot fool international financial markets .

GB£ is right. The message needs to be simple and visceral. No room for nuance. So the message needs to be "Freeze Government spending". There will be demands for more, and good cases too, which needs to be met with "Well of course we want to spend more on X. But under the present difficult circumstances we just have to find other areas to reduce. There will be hard choices (forced on us.... )". It could work

It is interesting to read the number of posts above that speak of the need for rebuttal. I think this `wait-till-we-see-what-they-say` approach is doomed to disaster. In the words of the Irishman `let`s get our retaliation in first`.
There are some excellent proposals also above. Short, sharp but they must be catchy as well. Journalists are mostly idle, I think, and if they can be served up with something quotable, they`ll use it. Otherwise we rely on their interpretation, which straight away brings out any editorial bias there might be. So something like `affordable spending only` or `beware Brown`s HP killer` or `essentials are the key`. There are better brains than mine that will find the answer, but let us go into action and keep plugging our message hard, and not wait to answer Labour`s economy with the truth (Ah! What about "Labour`s Economy? Economy with the Truth!"

@watcher, 10.17 - complacency doesn't even begin to describe it. That was my one problem with the Tories this year. They could have put out a whole raft of pledges and Labour would have been shot down in tatters for daring to pinch them. Now the boot seems to be on the other foot.

While I think he's done the right thing in at least detaching himself from Labour's plans, I am not sure that the Tories are not just falling back on what allegedly lost us the last election. People may complain about waste and inefficiency in the public sector, but I'm not sure we are clear enough ourselves as to what will be the consequences of this in a recession.

Shooting the messenger is all very well, complaining about spin is all very well, but we need to be matching their spin rather than complaining. When I see a fully coherent, fully developed message, which soundbites that don't sound robotic (as last election's tended to be when the Shadow Cabinet were on TV) and a catchy image or two, I'll be happy. But I'm not sure CCHQ are switched on enough to produce that.

We should be fighting the war of words, not complaining about it. Cameron's a PR man, surely he can bring some of his flair to bear on CCHQ?

Prioritise hospitals and schools as these are the most important. The spending here should match the Government's projections. All other areas, including details of absolutely,gross Government waste, should be investigated and savings analyses produced.

This will neutralise those sceptics with 'politically poisonous intent' and make them realise this is an eminently well thought through policy. Although, of course, they will never openly admit to such.

However, the electorate will understand more easily that spending must be funded.

Funded spending will prevent a tax con.

I am sur prised that when discussing funding, no promise has been made to prune drasticslly the huge Quango costs.
There are now over 1000 of these ministerial cop-outs, employing possibly twenty times that number of members, staffs and consultants, many of them paid more than the PM.
Many of them seem to be set up to do things which ministeres in their departments would have done in years gone by.
Abolition of most would be popular with voters, and would save many milliions for our policies.
Margaret Thatcher succeeded in a drastic reduction in numbers, but the present profligate crowd reversed her sensible policy.

All DC needs to say is "whatever we do, we guarantee that not a single teacher, doctor or nurse will lose their job."

This is enough to defuse Labour's charge and yet leave copious room for manoeuvre.

Well presentation of the message is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. Labour have marketed their boyo's World-Saviour (bill won't be that bad) very well. Turned Glenrothes round.
I guess the "Price of Liberty is eternal vigilance" will have to be resurrected as a CCHQ slogan, because what I see happening time and again is Tories win an argument, 3-4 day wait, and then Labour start up the distortions again - people can't be bothered with rebutting them again so this time round they stick. As they appear, rebut them, let nothing stand still, if it moves chivvy it.
GB£ is right as well. I remember before 1997 on the NHS, the accepted wisdom in the voting public was that the Tories were running the NHS down - in terms of real expenditure the story was quite the opposite. But people had decided the Tory brand was toxic and just went for it, wanting to believe it.
So the questions are :
How much has Cameron detoxified the Tory brand : ie how much do people believe "Compassionate Conservatism"? Is it a slogan or a reality? How do the Tories make sure it is a reality in the minds of the voter?
Why has the most potent attack on Brown's economy come from Bremner, Bird and Fortune?
Do people think that trying to comment too much before the PBR was a mistake?
Briefings of personnel on public shows just has to get better. Wittering and twittering is a perception that is coming across rather than a mature, reasoned understanding of the issues. Some of this wittering and twittering comes across I think, because perhaps as part of the detox strategy, Shadows are not assertive enough when dealing with presenters, they are too easily bullied. Yes the line between assertive and obnoxious is a fine line but whay the hell else are people in the political arena if they can't distinguish that difference.
Brown is having a wonderful recession, he is getting away with Global reasons rather than local reasons. That is hard to take it on, but soembody better find the way to do it, because the current methods might resonate here, but they don't appear to be resonating anywhere else.

The way to stimulate the economy is to cut taxation. That's true now as it was true 30 years ago. The way to do that without harming front line services is to attack the massive waste this government has piled on to every aspect of state activity except the really crucial ones like Defence.

Lower tax rates often increase yields as Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson both demonstrated in the 1980s.

If DC and George Osborne have a credibility gap now it's because they seemed until recently to turn their backs on these truths and espouse Labour's spending plans - which were potentially disastrous even without the Credit Crunch.

Osborne is right to point out Brown's extreme culpability but the above consideration might mean that he isn't believed on that point as someone else, not so associated with maintaining Labour's spending plans, might be.

This is a really serious matter. Brown and Darling's prescription is 1960s undergraduate stuff based on a study of the 1920s and 30s. The parallel is a bad one. The circumstances today are totally different and their prescription is set fair to kill the patient.

It is up to selected Candidates to illustrate by example "Compassionate Conservatism" in action: deeds speak louder than words. Councillors too have a very large part to play in the public perception of the Party. It is no good trying to detoxify the brand if the only Conservatives people actually meet position themselves somewhere between Hyacinth Bouquet and Attila the Hun.

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