The Great David Cameron Rebranding Exercise
Our dear leader has a remarkably amusing face (as above) – resulting in some terrific photos – although that won’t be enough to win him a General Election, I don’t think. However a drastic campaign is underway at CCHQ to ensure the resurgence of David Cameron and the Conservative party as a whole ahead of the 2015 election. It’s going to be a long campaign……
2012 was on the whole a woeful year for the man who was once hailed as the saviour of the Conservative Party. The budget in March was disastrous, his loss of the boundary review critical, and the astronomical rise of UKIP eye-watering. At one point, Labour had a 15%+ lead in some polls, and Cameron’s approval rating plunged to new depths.
Using the amazing Olympics as a springboard, Cameron used the back end of last year as the foundations for a vast two-and-a-half year campaign. His conference speech was almost entirely designed to appeal to those in the hall – the mainstream, grass-root conservative supporters, and this was emphasised yet further with his reshuffle. As I wrote at the time, the appointments of Grayling, Miller and Villiers (and the ‘promotion’ of Paterson) signaled a further lurch back to the right. With the new appointments cementing mainstream conservative policies (particularly Grayling on justice), Cameron *almost* began to flourish in the closing months of the year.
Grant Shapps’ arrival at CCHQ has seen a big shake-up of the party internally, too. We now see a party chairman who is identifiable and likeable, to both the public and the party. He is a regular fixture on TV and radio, and aside from clearly being excellent at the PR side of things, his management and leadership in recent times must also be applauded. He has drafted in the excellent Neil O’Brien and Lynton Crosby to head up the campaign for the next election, bringing with them a great deal of conservative knowledge and experience. Meanwhile Shapps’ decision to heavily target Lib Dem seats should also be welcomed. Clearly showing no sign of fear, the Conservatives will be campaigning hard against their coalition partners, in many liberal seats that are certainly winnable.
While Shapps and CCHQ are working hard, the central figure is unquestionably David Cameron. And it’s almost as if he has paid a visit to an advertising agency and had a complete makeover. His policies in many areas have changed drastically in the past six months and regardless of claims of populism and pandering, it appears to be working. The premise of strivers/shirkers, a harder line on justice, and a commitment to building a nation of ambition have all been welcomed.
However, the most fantastically conservative thing to leave Mr Cameron’s mouth in a very long time, did so last week. Some may see it as pure opportunism and indeed it may be. But one thing is certain: We are amidst a huge PR campaign that is seeing our Prime Minister greatly reposition himself in the political world, and greatly rebrand himself in public. Yes, this was the long-awaited Europe speech.
Last weekend, all four major polls published showed that Labour’s lead had dropped. YouGov showed a lead of just 6% for them, which could be considered disastrous considering the mid-term nature of the present. UKIP’s standing has faded (although they remain extremely popular and a considerable problem for Cameron), and the Conservative’s stock has risen. The message on Europe is now clear. Cameron WILL seek a new, better relationship with Europe but even then the people will definitely be given their chance to vote on the issue – if they choose him to be their leader once more. With Labour floundering about on the wrong side of public opinion, this past week has been a true moment of political glee for those in the blue corner.
But what next? Cameron must keep pushing, as must the team at CCHQ. His policies may well have been shifting in the right direction, but challenges remain even in that department. Problems with the NHS and welfare reform remain unsolved and the economy is looming on the brink of yet another fall into recession. The economy simply has to be the priority for the Government in the next two years.
And what of the man himself? His image is still much worse than it was in the run up to 2010. His ‘arrogant posh boy’ (as Nadine Dorries – everyone’s favourite MP – says) status is still in the minds of the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom. He needs a manifesto of compassion for 2015. Clearly standing up for conservative values but thoroughly showing how such values can deliver for all types of people in a modern day, recession hit society. We’ve been saying this for years, but his party really must attempt to make further inroads in the North, a region that has largely felt shunned by conservatism for decades but paves the road for electoral success.
Cameron is in the process of a vast campaign to rebrand himself and the party. His progress so far has been great, but he must further this rebrand. One thing’s for sure; this is going to be a hell of a campaign.