As the news broke about the Conservatives’ improved rating in the polls, IDS conspicuously failed to whore around the airwaves or shove the story up the news agenda.
This could be because his advisers can’t remember the Today programme’s telephone number, don’t know how to ring directory enquiries, and are too stupid to manage a major media opportunity.
If we were still in the laughable land of Hague-style 14-pints-a-day populism, this would be an entirely credible explanation.
But since John Deans, (ex-chief political correspondent at the Daily Mail) has recently been appointed as the Conservative party’s media manager, IDS’s modesty takes on a more strategic appearance.
Mr Deans joins Nick Wood (head of news and media) and Mike Penning (deputy director of news and media), to form an interesting communications triumvirate. So far as the term has meaning in a journalistic context, these guys have unimpeachable pedigrees.
My guess is that they will have counselled their boss not to crow too loud, and to resist the temptation to show off.
This would be because (a) he’s not got that much to show off about, and (b) if he starts making a noise, it’ll provide the government with a breathing space to divert attention – if only momentarily – from the multiple cracks in an agenda which has spun out of the control of Labour spin.
What IDS and his team may have latched onto is the fact that we’ve now embarked on the Ronseal leg of the spin business. This involves playing the forthright integrity card. It’s the political equivalent of the commercial that validates its message by saying it’s not a commercial. IDS – it does what it says on the tin.
IDS’s modest offering begins to look a lot better on the shelf, because nobody believes the label on New Labour. The media has declared open season on Tony Blair’s clowning spin machine, on policy failures, and on the failings of individual ministers and their departments.
The advice to IDS must be to take a stance of bemused detachment on the current implosion, and to nudge the whole situation back into crisis should the government look like sorting itself out. This will buy the Conservative party a little time to establish an idea – any idea – of what it stands for.
The papers tell me that Margaret Thatcher’s not up to much, and over in the East End, the German artist who has devised a unique process for creating body cells with plastic (well, blow me down) has opened an exhibition of real corpses near Jack the Ripper’s old patch. So forget all this Machiavellian stuff and get back to the gags: another explanation for IDS’s absence from public view is that the living dead and the dead are more interesting.