Sunday 30 January 2011

Cameron must seize the optimism agenda

It seems that President Obama has turned a corner and is seeing his poll ratings rise again after the dismal showing in the mid-term elections in November. He is a long way off reelection but the predictions I made here - that the Republicans would help Obama secure reelection in 2012 - appear to be coming true.

What is also happening is there has been a shift in the language and general approach used by Obama and the White House. There are two good articles summarising the new approach from the Daily Telegraph here and Time here.  

There are lessons in this for David Cameron. I have said before that the government should talk about ambition, entrepreneurship, aspiration and address the challenges facing the country in a positive tone. Ed Miliband dipped his toe in this area with his conference speech but has since failed to follow this up. As Labour continue with their obsession on pointing out the potential harm of every single reduction in funding there is a great opportunity for the Prime Minister to lead the way; making the government a coalition based on optimism.

What Cameron has also failed to do recently - something he used to do so well - is make policy relevant to the man down the Dog and Duck. This you do through story telling. The Time analysis points to this being a key tactic of the White House; it should become one for Downing Street as well.

With the media continuing their relentless pursuit of stories based on cuts the government can allow the agenda to be set by them and Labour, or redefine the debate. If Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and other key ministers were to set out their stall in this way it could well be the case that Labour would look isolated and defeatist. The next election here will be won by the party of aspiration so its time to seize the optimism agenda before someone else does.   

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