Thursday, March 27, 2008

Damned when you do

My local paper recently did a day in the life feature on Dorset South Labour MP Jim Knight, Minister in the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Yes, it is pure PR. It tells the story of a busy MP whose time is divided between the ministry, his constituency and his family. There are some lovely vignettes such as: on his desk "He has school design books, pictures from children, photos of his family and a large bowl of fruit"... "My legs are a blur as Jim and I race to the Houses of Parliament. He's carrying a sheaf of papers. "In case I can flick through during the Budget." he is reported to have said!"... "Jim returns from a press interview to be told he's supposed to be on front bench duty. What's that? "Sitting on the front bench to support whoever's speaking." He decides to do proper work instead." Why are such things important? Well for a Minister concentrating on the constituency can be trickier than as a backbencher, a problem perhaps as he sits on a very narrow margin and campaigned in 2005 as a strong local advocate and representative: his monicker of 'Just Jim' holding a lot of credence among the voters. Therefore this sort of PR allows him to maintain a profile across the area as opposed to just those who contact the MP; also it is a way of appearing authentic while hardworking in an era where MPs are seen as untrustworthy and remote. Does it work, well it depends who reads it and how they decode it.

No-one is ever sure who reads letters pages, but the one bit of feedback is highly negative. Mike Fry of Upton in Poole writes that the article underestimates "the true feelings of many of your [The Echo's] readers. She [Faith Eckersall] "avoided championing the things that matter, like how much do we pay this MP to represent us from 8am to 5pm" (though the article did state it was Faith and not Jim that stopped work at 5pm). While Faith was 'impressed', Mike was not, and may lead others to also question the article hence leading some to build a negative image as opposed to the positive tone of the article. Hence sometimes you an be damned for not getting in the news with a bit of PR or damned when you do and it is decoded in a negative way.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How to destroy your credibility the easy way

You can imagine the conversation within the communication team, Hilary Clinton as a woman cannot claim battle as her Republican rival so they needed to invent a little action. So they thought they would exaggerate a little, rather than gunshots in the hills nearby she landed in Bosnia under sniper fire and so the story escalates. If it were a celebrity no-one would care, a business leader enhancing his or her CV well who would check, but a presidential candidate; whoever thought up that idea must have been out of their tiny mind. If the voters do not believe she "misspoke" and that she lied then it will undermine all credibility in her at a time when she has to out-honest Obama. Whoops!!

Winning the cyclist's vote?

It is always easy to find evidence of hypocrisy among politicians, the problem is we all aspire to great ideals but often find it hard to live up to them. David Cameron did hit an own goal when promoting cycling and having his car following him to carry his shoes, document boxes etc but is the weekend's gaffe as serious or actually a gaffe at all from the public perspective? Many of the weekend's newspapers carried the story of him being forced to apologise after breaking a number of road traffic laws while on his cycle being filmed by Daily Mirror journalists, these included: cycling the wrong way down a one-way street and going through a red light. The video posted on the website and shown on BBC News 24 is not exactly damning, especially given that there was a Mirror journalist following him through every misdemeanour. That said politicians it seems are judged by different standards to the rest of us and, perhaps, this is a little more embarrassing after Boris Johnson, fellow Conservative and London mayoral candidate, called for "zero tolerance... [as] we cyclists have got to obey the laws of the road" but how does it play out more widely?

Most cyclists break the rules of the road, it is almost the point of a bicycle; the real problem is often the danger posed to the cyclist but it is whether any infringements are seen as being serious enough to make voters question Cameron's abilities as party leader or prime minister. His actions, and response (akin to saying its a fair cop guv) perhaps suggests he is the same as Mr or Mrs Average on a bike: just getting from A to B as quickly as possible. While the party does stand for 'law and order', it may seem to be a good thing that there may well be a common sense aspect, it is only a problem when it appears to be one law for Mr Cameron and another for all other cyclists. The event will remain in the public consciousness so Cameron needs to be cautious if he is seen to initiate any future clampdown on cyclists, if he does not it may just add to his Dave the ordinary guy credentials.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bar Alastair Darling

Alastair Darling has annoyed one pub landlord enough with his increase in tax on alcohol he has started a campaign which has spread virally around the blogosphere. The original details are available here. Wouldn't it be wonderful if Darling did find himself barred from every pub in the UK, it woudl be real evidence of the power of the people and the public sphere. Do pass the link on to your landlord, especially if you do know that (a) Mr Darling goes to the pub and (b) you know which one!
UPDATE: didn't realise how viral this one was on Saturday morning as I rushed a post. Yesterday The Telegraph ran a feature on it, love the Simpsons mock-up. As a colleague of mine notes by email "Surely it is a stunt, a psuedo-event, which is then sent around the Internet. In a sense it is no different from when a political party launches a poster during an election and all the media troop over to see it being unvelied and then twenty minutes later two blokes come along and paste over the next paying ad. Or when a trade union get a van with pigs and a trough to stop outside Parliament to campaign about bosses getting their snouts in the trough. They are all really non-events, they only happen if the media turn up, and the rest of us see it through the lens of a camera. Similarly i think that is exactly what the Alistair Darling thing is, but this time the media is the Internet. If we don't open that email, read that blog or or visit that website has anything really happened?" Is this the emergent power of the blogosphere as a public sphere?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Parliament nervous of the Youtube generation

The Sun newspaper and a Facebook Group are campaigning to end a ruling that scenes from parliament cannot be posted to Youtube on the basis that if clips were put on the site they could be downloaded and “manipulated” by anyone so Commons Commission spokesman, Nick Harvey is quoted as saying.
The call to bring parliament into the 21st Century and engaging with an audience that watch online videos more than commercial television and public service broadcasting is an interesting one. Parliament could build its own Youtube site that brands videos; there is of course the problem of what would be posted and who would choose how to select bitesize elements of the day. Prime Minister's Questions would probably be popular, but are perhaps unusual in terms of much of parliament. Whether anyone should be allowed to post bits of parliament is a broader issue perhaps but there is also the question why not? There are clips from Canadian, Taiwanise, Australian and the European parliament on Youtube already as well as a couple of the UK parliament that seem to have slipped under the radar.

Then there is the question of what would happen if someone did rip a video of parliament from the television and post it (manipulated or not) onto Youtube. Would that count as treason? Could it be an offence? If so, is George Galloway due problems?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A dangerous card to play

And that card is, the race card. Despite the notoriety earned for his insensitive comment that a Jewish journalist was acting like a concentration camp commandant, Ken Livingstone has pursued a One London approach to multiculturalism in London. In response to the 7/7 attacks this became symbolic of a fighting spirit that Livingstone wanted to inspire across all Londoners against 'the other' the terrorists who sought to undermine British society. Using that as a backdrop for his campaign is one thing, but branding his Conservative opponent as a person who undermines that notion is another. While he did not call Boris Johnson as racist, in launching his campaign Livingstone delivered a speech in which he also launched an attack on Johnson as a divisive figure. Juxtaposing his successes and the potential for Johnson to fail, Livingstone argued: "Racist attacks in London are down by over half, when elsewhere they are up. In contrast, Boris Johnson's campaign uses the right wing dog-whistle politics that attack political correctness."

In terms of styles there may be some accuracy to Livingstone's comments; it largely depends on where you stand on political correctness. However in terms of strategy it could be highly problematic. The problem for Livingstone is that familiarity seems to have bred contempt and after eight years he is as associated with the problems faced by Londoners as with his successes and his potential to be a good mayor for another term; thus he needs to stress his own positives. Secondly, Boris Johnson is well-liked and not seen as divisive, his comments may sometimes be ill-conceived but many may view him as acting without malice at the very least. Thirdly Livingstone talks of left and right, with Johnson being on the right; but do such things mean much to everyday Londoners? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, attacks may not be the right approach anyway. If the contest gets personal it could heavily reduce turnout and support in both the main candidates or if one goes all out for an attack their support could disappear.

Mirroring support for the parties nationally, a poll yesterday showed that Johnson had the lead with 49%, Livingstone trailing at 37% and Brian Paddick the Liberal Democrat candidate enjoying only 12% of support. Allegations surrounding the Livingstone team have done him a lot of damage thus it would seem to be a better approach to lead on the positives of his period of office, examine those things he has done that are popular and distance himself from anything unpopular (including Labour and Gordon Brown). Attacks may undermine him as much as Johnson, if not more so, especially when the audience do not see them as fair. There maybe a number of open goals on Boris's side of the pitch but Ken has not seemed to score in them yet.

Of course negativity is not solely the province of Ken Livingstone. There are a number of scathing attacks on Livingstone across Conservative sites, but Johnson's own comments have been surprisingly circumspect and more about policy (to an extent) than personality. He doesn't like 'bendy buses': "Ken Livingstone's odious, inhuman, socialistic 18-metre Frankfurter buses blindly pasting the cyclist against the kerb". But Boris may get away with that, especially if such comments resonate with Londoners.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Has the personal touch worked?

The Independent today asked whether Cameron will "regret placing tots in the frontline?". The exclusive insight into his family life was aired on ITV's News at ten on Friday and showed him as a dad comfortable with family life and preparing breakfast for his children, defending his decision to let the cameras in Cameron argues "People want to know who you are and what you are like and what makes you tick... That's modern politics. You just have to do what you feel comfortable with." And comfortable is perhaps the key here, his rival Gordon Brown is not comfortable with such intrusions into his life or the lives of his family. Cameron is happy to mix personality with politics and be a political celebrity, this involves letting the media in and embracing the attention earned.

The Independent asks if he will regret it long term, when his son might do a Euan Blair and be found drunk in public, but for Cameron his celebrity status seems to be earning him significant rewards at a time when Labour are struggling. The credibility of Brown and Darling has been seriously compromised by the loss of sensitive data, perceived indecision over Northern Rock and the questions surrounding economic stability and Darling and Brown's ability to meet the challenges. But unless they are seen to be responsible for an economic collapse such things may not lose them the election; experience can be chosen over an untried and untested team despite doubts.

But Cameron is running away with popularity and this could be due to him and his style as much as the weakness in support for Labour. The narrative of Dave the family man, who understands and cares about the ordinary man and woman in the street seems to have surpassed and dispelled any negative connotations that may have come with his privileged background. A poll today puts Cameron's Conservatives on 43% with Labour on 27% and the Liberal Democrats on 16% which could easily give Cameron a small majority if there was an election. Momentum is with him and is this poll reflects his media appearances as well as those of Brown and Darling he is on a roll.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

'I am We' - so don't attack us for sipping latte

Barack Obama has a wonderful ability to phrase arguments as if they come from his supporters, and the mass of US voters, as opposed to just being from him as a presidential candidate. Now he is under fire from both Clinton and McCain, he is also now drawing inclusion into his defence. Arguing that "Senator Clinton continues to run an expensive, negative campaign against us. Each day her campaign launches a new set of desperate attacks" he argues that "They're not just attacking me; they're attacking you". An outrageous quote from Clinton (actually said by an aide which may be handy) Obama highlights is that she "attempted to diminish the overwhelming number of contests we've won by referring to places we've prevailed as "boutique" states and our supporters as the "latte-sipping crowd." Own goal?? It is not playing well with Obama supporting bloggers that is for sure.

But also by including his not insignificant number of supporters across the US as victims of the Clinton attacks, Obama undermines the attacks and tries to build solidarity against his rival for the nomination. It may be successful but he needs a stronger case to pinpoint further reasons why an attack on him is an attack on the Obama movement; if he can make that case it could be a powerful weapon that persuades those who may not be supporters but who lean towards Obama and are undecided. How such techniques will play in a fight versus McCain is less clear but it could win him the nomination if Clinton is seen as attacking the people rather than her opponent.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Speaking their language

A delightful little irony emerges from the US nomination race. Rosanna Fiske notes that "Whatever the political inclination, Republicans and Democrats realize that speaking to the heart and the minds of Hispanics/Latinos across the U.S., developing nuanced, sensitive messages and addressing culturally relevant issues have never been more important".

Hence, according to Maria Teresa Petersen, executive director of Voto Latino, a nonpartisan voter registration organization, in an interview with New America Media "Candidates are spending tens of millions of dollars trying to capture the attention of Latino voters, mostly in the Spanish-language media" but here is the irony "what the campaigns haven't figured out is that 79 percent of the 18 million eligible Latino voters consume media in English"

Campaigning is all about targeting key groups, talking about the issues important to them and making it understandable, but when we say talking the same language as your voters we may not mean that literally. Perhaps this is laziness in believing that Latinos do not speak English or not sufficiently to want to process political arguments, perhaps it is a genuine attempt to reach out and embrace the community, but is it a good strategy or does this highlight that a much deeper understanding of your public is needed and gimmicks go unrewarded?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Blog Your Way to Election Success?

According to 'Davick Services' "No matter what kind of campaign you’re running, a Blog allows you to quickly and easily create a place on the web where voters can find you, learn about you, interact with you and contribute to your success". Their reasoning is that:
  • Huge impact for very little money
  • Creates a dialog between you and the voters
  • Blogs collect valuable feedback from voters
  • Blogs build trust with voters
  • Blogs are a conduit for online campaign contributions that multiply over time
All absolutely true but, and of course there is a but, can blogging really guarantee you electoral success? Here are some reasons I would offer to suggest why this also might not be the case:
  • Blogs require a pull factor, their existence does not guarantee traffic
  • Blogs can allow opponents to post negative comments
  • There is no guarantee that visitors or comment posters are your voters
  • Blogs need to find a balance between personal and campaign communication, just campaigning is a turn-off, all personal lacks focus
  • Conversations on blogs can lead bloggers down blind alleys (issues important to one poster only), or to talk on issues they prefer to keep quiet on
  • Trust must come before asking for money
Online campaigning does work, it has been a key part of Barack Obama's successes to date; but he created himself a pull factor. But it needs to be used wisely and strategically. If someone asked me if they should use a blog as a campaign tool I would ask them what for specifically - if they could not answer then I would say no. The problem is that the answer for many to the thorny question of how to reach most people for the least money is go online. Yes that is true, but... and to ignore that but could be a as serious a mistake as an own goal in the World Cup Final, with the score at 1-1, in the last seconds of injury time!

is 'DULL' good politics?

Norman Smith looks forward to the Budget and predicts it is to be "deliberately dull", his reason is that "people want is steady-as-you-go, sober common sense. Or, put another way, dull, dull, dull." Or perhaps actually what the people want is honesty. Brown's last budget was described by opponents as a con-trick; no-one wants that do they? One former chancellor presented a fascinating argument at an academic conference, it involved building blocks. He produced three stacks and said "right, here is the budget for the health service, this is defence, this is for the police; you want more money for the health service that's fine, which budget shall I take a million from?" He went on to explain that is the job of the Chancellor, but would it not be refreshing if a Chancellor actually stood up and explained his or her thinking in simple layman's terms? Too many budgets give with one hand while picking the public pockets with the other; the reason is to openly state a requirement to increase income tax is a vote loser. Are people really that unsophisticated (well, perhaps), but if someone did step forward and state their arguments for increasing tax and why it is going to benefit the people would it be better than obfuscating and spinning? It perhaps would not be dull, but it might be better politics.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Could they reconcile their differences?

There are suggestions that Clinton and Obama would be a dream team for the Democrats, but as the campaign gets closer, nearer to its conclusion and as every vote counts, and the gloves are now off by both candidates, could this be possible? Clinton's attempts to undermine Obama seem to have worked, Obama's fact checker accuses Hillary of experience by proxy (due to her husband), reinforced by his reworking of the '3am' advertisement, all damages public perceptions of both candidates.

Meanwhile McCain can appear presidential with no-one to launch attacks on him until the real race gets underway. Obama calls for a two-pronged attack, on Clinton and on McCain, but the main thrust of his message is to appear hard done by in the face of Clinton's attacks and being given a harder time from the media. This could make Obama appear weaker, perhaps too sensitive for the job of president, but also undermines Clinton's image, could all of this benefit McCain and the Republicans when voters may already feel he is the more typical president?

Voluntary or Compulsive?

I am not ideologically opposed to ID cards, as every marketing company, DVLA, NHS, and god knows how many other organisations seem to have my details it would seem to be no big deal. Personally my major gripe is that the proposal was we were being told to have something and then given a bill for the privelege. As we have to pay more for passports, driving licences and various other 'ID' forms, a further high cost card seems unnecessary and designed to annoy the poeple a little more than they were previously. The media says there is a climbdown by Jacqui Smith and the government in makign the statement:
We have always said that there will be no requirement to carry and present a card. That has not changed, and will not change. And there will be no compulsion, either, in having to apply for a dedicated identity card for the purposes of proving your identity.
But I wonder, as ever with these things the devil is in the detail. Within her speech, Smith talked of the selling points for young people having an ID card would be:
It will make it easier to enrol on a course, apply for a student loan, open a bank account, or prove your age
But does this hint that without clear photographic proof young people would be unable to go to college or university, get their loan, have an account ot put it in, or have a drink in the student bar so getting an ID card would be inevitable? It is an interesting idea to ensure that the next generation of youth will need to have an ID card and so mean that in the long term they will become a part of everyday life, but is that what Brown and Smith have in mind while they also make it all seem voluntary.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Is this Inconsistent?

David Cameron, rightly I think, argued in a Guardian article on Monday that "The old answers - where politicians talked and people listened - will not work in a new age", suggesting that the Internet, globalisation of politics and political activism and social networking has revolutionised social interaction and that the Conservatives have adapted to this revolution. One bit of this adaptation is: "we launched our new ad campaign on Facebook. We also introduced a new "friends" programme, giving people the opportunity to support us with however small a donation they like. We understand that for many, the idea of signing up to a party as a full "member" doesn't fit with what they want", so adaptation is really asking for money via Facebook. This is not what Facebook is all about, supporting causes to some extent yes, but for an organisation to say 'be my friend, show me support and give me money' is not.

The second 'adaptation' is "answering your questions live on the Guardian website". This consisted of no more than 30 minutes, and is of dubious quality. We do not learn a lot ands he also wriggles out of tough questions referring, too often in my opinion, questioners to the Conservative website. The classic, tough question comes from 'Whyayeman' who talks of Cameron's speech on penal reform and asks "Were you aware of these inaccuracies? If not why not? If you knew the truth, then why did you lie"; this gets a short answer that argues that half the points Cameron made were accurate, ignores the other half and attacks the Labour government: "Labour failed to invest in the necessary prison capacity. But the real point about our policy document launched yesterday - see for details"

The challenge posed by new technology is how to interact with an increasingly online society. If you choose an interactive strategy then you must be wholehearted in your interaction. This seems to be more of a case of appearing interactive, accessible and down-to-earth (looking at some of the style of answering), but there is no conversation here or on Facebook; is this really adapting or wanting to be perceived to be adapting?

Crumbling under pressure

Obama agreed that Hillary had thrown the kitchen sink at him, reflecting on the result he comments "We knew that the closer we got to the change we seek, the more we'd see of the politics we're trying to end -- the attacks and distortions that try to distract us from the issues that matter to people's lives, the stunts and the tactics that ask us to fear instead of hope". But it seems that the seeds of doubt sown by Hillary's attack and comparative advertisements, and his own failure to answer criticisms by the media may have lost him the chance of winning the nomination. Obama was questioned on his ability to be president (does he have the experience and commitment) and his handling of his campaign (does he attempt to be all things to all men), perhaps he failed to answer his critics on either point.
Interesting that in Texas Republican voters are voting for a Democrat nominee that they would not elect anyway; surely this gives them a great opportunity to vote for the worst candidate to give 'their guy' a better chance?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Too busy to hold one meeting of a committee that oversees the Afghanistan conflict, too busy because of the contest for the Democratic nomination, could this be Clinton's killer criticism?

Monday, March 03, 2008


Fear is a powerful tool of persuasion, both to gain support and as a weapon against an opponent. It was tried and failed by the UK Conservatives with the 'New Labour: New Danger', but Blair was trusted by the electorate; the question in the US is how much do American voters trust Obama.

In a post 9/11 climate of uncertainty and insecurity, when Americans can see real threats to their homeland, and can recognise the need for a strong and capable President, the latest Hillary Clinton ad could be devastating. By focusing on the need for someone with experience, playing on the fear that parents (particularly mothers) fear bad things can happen to them and their children as they sleep, she is positioning herself as that person. But do Americans see her in that role. It may sow the seeds of doubt among wavering Democrats but could, if she wins, be the sort of message that will make some question who would ensure their children's safety best: a man or a woman. She claims experience by proxy but will Americans accept her claim?

WOM and public endorsement the Obama way

It is the last push in the race to be party nominee for president, Obama is attempting to get a Word Of Mouth campaign going that has the persuasive strength of public endorsement as opposed to relying on his campaign. It is an online phone banking tool that aims to make 1,500,000 calls to voters by Tuesday's caucuses (according to his front page 1,000,723 have already been made with over 24 hours to go). Its a simple idea facilitated by his website, supporters log in, choose a state and are given 20 names of people to call. Interestingly there is no script or suggestions of lines to give, so people seem to be expected to persuade others why it is important to vote for Obama. There are also target groups and Spanish speakers, women and students are asked to take part and speak to their own voter group. Also, if all that were not enough, there are the positions of Get Out The Vote Captains, tasked recruit supporters and organise canvassing and 'knocking-up'. All standard fayre for an election, not usually as intense for a primary, but also geared far more to involving his support network that would be expected. If he is successful, and the success is driven by the strength of his support network, it has the potential of driving him all the way to the White House.

Media Bias = Public Bias?

The slant the media places on a story is often of concern to politicians, news analysts and academics. The perception is that a negative slant on a story about any individual, celebrity or politician, or brand, be it a Whitehall department, public service or high street emporium, translates into a negative impression of that individual or brand among the public. While such media effects can be contested wholly, and can be changed by experience or rejected by an audience (so they can be transient), there is a logic to the media effects argument. If an individual has little experiential knowledge, or the media is talking about a world that is closed to public scrutiny, where else can the public get their information from but the media. Hence, if this is true, any impression gained of the players will be formed by the media comment on them. This seems particularly logical for politicians. Because the are engaged in permanent campaigning and so always spin the positives of their actions, but the public cannot perform any checks on their claims, they allow the media to inform them of the facts; this allows political editors and journalists great power in shaping perceptions.

Friend and colleague David Phillips has developed a tool for comparative analysis of bias in media coverage, currently this looks at Google News feeds and is a fascinating tool when looking at election contests or straight fights between two leaders. It certainly can offer insights into the reporting of politicians.

Looking at Britain only, and comparing coverage of Cameron and Brown, Cameron gets neutral coverage. So there is little bias either way suggesting that there is more information than comment. Brown, however, receives more slanted coverage, 75% of which is negative. Therefore when both leaders feature in an article, Cameron is reported on whereas Brown receives negative commentary. In contrast when Cameron and Clegg feature side-by-side, Cameron receives positive commentary while Clegg is treated neutrally. More interestingly when Brown and Clegg are both covered, bias is mixed. The right wing press are critical of both on Europe but tend to favour Clegg over Brown. The left-wing and Scottish press overwhelmingly favour Clegg but Brown is given some positive comments from quality papers such as the Times in a straight fight with Clegg.

What does this tell us, well the tool can be refined and perhaps a three way analysis would be more useful. But, if this is indicative of the average bias towards the respective leaders, and there is some link to public perceptions of them, can this explain why Cameron, in a poll today, is seen as the best prime minister (by a narrow margin) that the Conservatives seem to have popularity sown up, but that the Liberal Democrats and Clegg are holding firm. In other words, do these straight fights replicate thinking on the leaders and between Brown and Cameron, both in the media and public opinion, Cameron wins but Clegg has some positive associations for those who reject both? If you accept the media effects thesis then this may well be evidence of an actual effect.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A new type of campaign

David Cameron has launched a new recruitment campaign, mainly using the online tools of Youtube and a video exclusely on Facebook. The campaign is about people getting involved in the Conservative party to ensure there is a change in politics: hence the title 'You can get it if your really want' which has a soundtrack of course provided by the late Jimmy Cliff.
The use of social media is an interesting one, Facebook seems to be the fashionable network at the moment, it was even mentioned in Gordon Brown's speech to Labour's Spring Conference. But it may also tie in with Cameron's ongoing theme of 'power to the people' that have seen Stand Up Speak Out have success. But there is a danger, could this offer very hihg expectations of the Conservatives offering a responsive, voter-led, style of government? Why is this dangerous, the question is whether it is possible? As with Blair in 1994-7 the language was about listening and being in-touch, but the pressures of office soon hindered that being put into practice (if there was ever a commitment to this) and so public disappointment; is Cameron following the same path?

A Brown Vision

Although not a heavily publicised as the annual conferences, this weekend sees Labour's Spring Conference and the Welsh Conservative conference take place. Today the leaders offered their set piece. For Brown it was about his vision and his government ushering in an 'Age of Ambition'; "Imagine" he asked delegates "if together we create a Britain where, for all of us, the future is not a fate we can't escape but a common purpose we create". He was rewarded with a standing ovation for his rousing finale "So with the courage of our convictions, With pride in our common purpose, Let us go out with confidence to meet the world to come, Let us embrace this new age of ambition, and let us build the Britain of our dreams". High in rhetoric but a good leader's speech all the same.
The problem is that he did not really comment on the problems that are synonymous with him and his party. He defended Alastair Darling but did not really comment on specific policies. It was all at the macro level, the big ideas and aspirations of his government, it was about building perceptions of him as a man, but it may be seen as an attempt to distract rather than to face critics head-on. Visions are great, but you have to believe the rhetorician is a visionary that can delivery; is this true of Brown anymore?