Accused of not letting slip any details of policies that would be employed should they form the next Government, the Tories came out in surprisingly brave style yesterday, thanks to George Osborne.
He may have the charisma of a financial director of a small engineering firm in Colchester, but Osborne has been the boldest politician on the block this conference season, playing on the Tories’ current popularity to roll out plans for an austere Britain should the Tories come to power.
“After a year in which trust in parliament has been rocked to the foundations, we know that politics must change forever,” he told the Tory faithful. Then, in a definite nod to both the careful PR husbandry of Andy Coulson, the new Cardinal Richelieu of spin, and the needs of the public, he added: ‘We have to be open and transparent with the people we serve.”
It’s a risk, especially for a Tory party riding its first wave of media support in a long time. Not so long ago the Tories would have been very aware of the media looking carefully at the effect on the public of a group of old Etonians asking country to tighten its belt. But with the Sun on their side, this is the first conference that they are feeling confident at – and Osborne has taken a gamble by asking everyone but the poorest Briton to do exactly that to make sure the country gets out of the huge deficit.
Of course, anyone even paying lip-service to transparency in politics at the moment is likely to do well, however unlikely it is that the transparency will last long after power’s been achieved. Osborne, however, knows full well that he is not likely to end up as unpopular as Gordon Brown, whatever happens. We may have seen huge applause for the prime minister and his wife at the Labour conference last week, but a huge percentage of the people clapping, particularly the Balls and Darlings, are likely to have a dagger with Brown’s name on it concealed about their person. They’re all PR savvy enough to not want to be associated with the sinking of Labour and will be working out ways of leaving Gordon holding the baby.
Talking of hidden daggers, I was at the Pride of Britain awards last night and had the pleasure of watching the popular Piers Morgan working the room with ease, wit and a certain amount of grace. He and his partner, Celia Walden, make a very likeable pair – she’s his Michelle Obama.
I fell to wondering what this popularity could mean for his position in the Simon Cowell empire. Piers is getting to be much more popular than he used to be; will Cowell – the alpha male of the X Factory– allow someone on one of his shows to be this genuinely liked?
It’s time to be vigilant – this has all the makings of an epic off-screen soap opera that could run and run. Keep your eyes peeled for the next thrilling installment, coming soon!