Saturday, July 28, 2007

Imagine if Alan Duncan Had Been...

You may remember that earlier this month I advocated replacing Shadow Environment Secretary Peter Ainsworth with Alan Duncan, on the basis that the job required someone who knew how to get on the media. Yesterday, I started writing a piece questioning why I couldn't find hardly a mention of Peter Ainsworth in last week's newspapers. I abandonded it on the basis that as I wasn't here, I might have missed his appearances on radio and TV. However, having spoken to a few people over the last 48 hours, none of them had seen him on the media either.

So I have to ask the question: does anyone seriously think that if Alan Duncan had had this job over the last week we wouldn't be sick to the back teeth of seeing him on our TV screens splashing around in his green wellies? I do not pretend that an ability to get on the media is the only pre-requisite for being in a senior shadow cabinet position, but it is surely one of them. Andrew Pierce, in this morning's Telegraph, agrees...
Peter Ainsworth is a name few of you will be familiar with. He is, for what it's
worth, the Tories' capable environment spokesman. He should have enjoyed
wall-to-wall coverage leading the response to the flooding, bearing in mind our
new Prime Minister cut the money for river defences when he was Chancellor. But
the only reference this week I can recall to the capable Mr Ainsworth was about
his bouffant hairdo which is, admittedly, a cross between Ivana Trump's barnet
and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Now does that say more about the media or the
parlous state of the Conservative Opposition?
When I was in Rwanda I did a live News 24 interview in which I said that the fact that David Cameron was in Rwanda did not mean the Conservative Party was saying nothing about the floods. He had a shadow cabinet and a shadow environment secretary who would be handling it all while he was away. I am sure he and they were. But from reading the newspapers you'd be forgiven for not knowing that.

It is simply not good enough for them to say that they pumped out press releases bemoaning the government's lack of preparedness. It's symptomatic of a failing media approach to complain about lack of coverage. In today's media environment you have to earn that coverage, and simply sending out a five line quote from Peter Ainsworth in response to the latest government failing won't do that.

This is yet another example of the task that faces Andy Coulson in reshaping the Party's media strategy. But it is also further proof that the Shadow Cabinet needs to up its game.


The Hitch said...

Would those be the same green wellies that Mr Duncan wore for that nude photo with Lady t covering up his genitals?
No doubt if he had wallked around flooded Gloustershire naked apart from green wellies and a santa hat he would have got plenty of media attention, but is this what David Camerons conservatives are really all about?

Chris Paul said...

Duncan would have been here there and everywhere cackling manically about the floods. I'm not sure that would've gone down well with anyone.

But Ainsworth is a waste of space ... would he be swapped into Duncan's role? Or ditched?

Although Ainsworth's appointment is to an area nominally important to the Tories no one could have anticipated the deluge ... could they?

Matt said...

Iain, I couldn't agree with you more. One of the greatest failings that we have as a party is this insane belief that all you need to do to obtain good quality media coverage is to stick out a press release and then go home. There seems to be no understanding of the simple truism that to get good stories in the media you have to build relationships with journalists and you need to talk to them very regularly, not just chuck pieces of paper at them.I really do hope that Andy Coulson can rectify this wilful misunderstanding of the media process as his task number one, because without that change we will never get the media to give us the coverage that we need to get any positive messages across to the electorate.

Sackerson said...

This says sad things about modern democracy. We've turned right round from Jonathan Swift's day: now the politicians try to speak to us and the media flap our ears and lips. The view from the street is that journalists are becoming as grand, remote and partisan as our rulers.

SPAM ALERT said...

Alan Duncan should be congratulated for resisting the temptation to strangle that awful, smug, Yvette Cooper woman during the Daily Politics on Wednesday. It must have required restraint beyond the control of many, lesser, men.

However short of actually being able to walk on top of the flood water I doubt any Conservative Politician would get any credit at this time.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

I don't think the shadow cab needs to up its game. I think the msm has to stop giving Labour a blow job.

Eric said...

Never mind Alan Duncan.

Where was Call me Dave last week?

Anonymous said...

Fully agree with this and said so on Con Home all last week. Hunhe was the one getting the attention and not a word from Ainsworth or anyone in this party. We're going to lose our green credientials if we don't have a more capable spokesman.

javelin said...

Pumping out press releases and expecting them to be printed is the character of either a shy person or a person who doesnt understand the media. I suspect the former.

Bring on the green wellies.

Ralph said...

Alan Duncan is good on the attack but that was not what was needed here. If the Tories had started the blame game while people were being flooded it would have just looked like opportunism and been a massive own goal.

Now is the time to go on the offensive, but with facts and evidence.

As for Peter Ainsworth, all the opposition parties were ignored for 'Brown to the rescue' so I don't know what extra he could have done.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Imagine is Cameron had not gone to Africa.

David Cameron wants to hog the limelight and keep any other possible party leaders in the shade.

He should be developing his team far more. He should have been able to send a deputy to Africa so that he could make the most of being seen in the West Country, that is the only way he would have the publicity. He should have rounded on labour about lack of interest in the English people and blamed everything on Labour.

So Iain, Cameron is who you should be critisising instead of cosieing up to him and looking for anyone else to blame but him. As for Alan Duncan he just comes over as a wimp.
The Tories used to look so strong now they look so weak. They need to put some guts into fifghting Labour.

Bryan McGrath said...

Hate to break in on private grief, but you can't believe having Duncan in charge would have made the slightest difference?

This is the same Alan Duncan who "tear arsed" around 'the village' in order to make a "citizen's arrest" on somebody who had throw ice cream over Brian Mawhinney, I think.

You can't be serious, come back Bill Hague, a different class of media turn: plus good at the despatch box.

Vienna Woods said...

Yes, it's not just the Tories that are appointing the wrong people. BBC News on-line report of Miliband's visit to Afganistan. In Bridget Kendall's report it would appear that Britain seems to have sent another kid out to do a man's job! Rather puts paid to the idea that the BBC are pro-NuLab.

Tim Leunig said...

Iain is right: the Tories have been invisible over this. I have however seen quite a bit of Chris Huhne. On this issue, at least, the LibDems are making good their claim to being the "real opposition".

Man in a Shed said...

Tim - the Lib Dems can't be the "real opposition" when their only role in life is as the emergency organ donor for the Labour party in case they wind up with a hung parliament.

Iain - now you share the frustration that the rest of us were feeling.

On this and Grammar schools the problem was blindingly obvious - I imagine many people like myself we're thinking Cameron had better act fast. The reason that didn't happen had better be the subject of intense debate in CCHQ over the summer or we are doomed.

Eric said...

Tell you what Chris Huhne impressed me last week. I wish he were a Tory.

Sea Shanty Irish said...


YET AGAIN many of the blogmongers yer trying to help put within spitting distance of electoral success are too fixated by the bees buzzing within their tin hats to understand what yer saying.

Which as I read it is: an invisable shadow is no better - maybe even worse - than no shadow at all.

NOW a huge part of politics (as with the rest of life) is JUST SHOWING UP. What a compentent shadow enviro secretary was saying would be MUCH less important than the fact she/he was saying it while standing hip-deep in some poor flood-victims back garden.

Indeed, given the lack of coherent Conservative enviro policy . . . not to mention the high-profile right-wing wackos who think Lady Thatcher was a secret agent for GreenPeace . . . SILENCE is probably the BEST policy fer Team Blue.

Now to be sure, this is no time to be talking about "clear blue water!" Though that WOULD be prefereable to the stuff now covering much of Middle England.

AS FOR DAVID CAMERON it is true that he should have tweeked his schedule just a bit and postponed his Rwanda trip. That said, when he did not, it became the responsibily of whats-his-name the Tory enviro shadow to pick up the slack.

Instead, it appears that worthy was picking up his car from valet parking somewhere in Mayfair . . .


PS - Ever since Noah began sawing planks (and even before) FLOODING has always had a place of fasincation and horror in the human heart. In part because it is such a shock when it happens, and difficult to believe even AS it is happening. One minute you look out yer window and see a bit of rain . . . next you see water start to creep up the walk . . . and the next yer trying to drag your great-grandmothers prize antiques up to the attic . . . if yer lucky enough to have one.

I've seen the devistation of flooding first hand - wouldn't wish it on Dick Cheney! THOUGH sure wouldn't have objected to him spending some quality time at the Lousiana SuperDome during & immediately after Katrina!!!

Final note: Hope that those who have lost their shirts in on-line betting shops betting against GORDON BROWN have noticed that HE has not been the Invisible Man.

Ted Foan said...

I seem to recall that Ainsworth was interviewed on Radio 4 and heard it a couple of times. Problem was he was being very conciliatory and praising the emergency services - not attacking the Brown government for its incompetence over the last 10 years.

Maybe that's the problem - the Tories need to attack Brown's detailed record at every opportunity. Much as I hate the idea we need to do what Blair and Brown did in the mid-90s and create the perception of Labour incompetence on every "event" that arises.

Remember how Labour always said that the Tories were cutting expenditure on everything when in fact they were doing the opposite? There are hundreds of targets for Coulson to attack and I hope he is buiding the "grid" as I write.

This summer is probably the key period for Cameron and Co to start to get a grip again. So, all leave is cancelled: knuckle down and get out there and beat them at their own game!

Onlinefocus Team said...

Give the job to Mark Francois!