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Henry G Manson says LAB should consider the 2006 Dave the Chameleon approach to undermine Cameron

November 19th, 2012

Is it more relevant and pointed now than it was then?

Six and a half years ago the Labour Party launched a party political broadcast aiming to highlight how David Cameron would say whatever his audience or ‘target demographic’ wanted to hear.

    At the time I was struck by how many people were prepared to give Cameron the benefit of the doubt. It didn’t have traction.

I think this is less the case now. The respray he gave his party is wearing off. The latest to fall off is the environment with the Conservative spat with wind farms resulting in some embarrassing headlines. An MP and by-election campaign manager colluding with another candidate is not the ideal eve of poll message for a hotly contested by-election. Similarly the growing realisation that John Hayes has to be kept under lock and key by his Secretary of State isn’t an advert for a functioning coalition either.

While there may be few votes in environmental issues, the risk for David Cameron is that it affects his own standing.

He identified himself with various environmental policies in Opposition with great gusto as ‘proof’ the party had changed. To lose that becomes a question of his sincerity and leadership.

Elsewhere Cameron’s commitment to the NHS was a key factor within his leadership election bid and the general election itself. Since then the medical profession was united against Andrew Lansley’s health bill and the Prime Minister ignored their fears. Now doctors plan to run against Coalition MPs (including in the Prime Minister’s constituency) to highlight opposition to the Health and Social Care Act. They would be unlikely to win any seats, but they could cause some irritation and noise for the Conservative Party between now and 2015 if they became a rentaquote equivalent of the Taxpayers Alliance on health matters.

Meanwhile Conservative commentator Tim Montgomerie says the Conservatives are preparing to ‘lovebomb’ the Liberal Democrats to death in half of their target seats. He writes:

‘The thrust of Tory literature in Lib/Con seats won’t be to point out the Lib Dems’ out-of-mainstream views on Europe, human rights laws, immigration and crime (although those messages will be deployed) but will focus on the positive case for the Conservative Party – especially on local conservation, protection of pensions, support for fighting hunger overseas, help for the low-paid at home and above all, David Cameron’s commitment to the NHS.’

Personally I can’t see this working. The wider point is that such a strategy in itself is a continuation of the Cameron approach to changing your message or your audience. It’s a recognition he can’t be blue to win a majority. You can get away with it for a while, but once you’ve been rumbled it’s actually counterproductive. That is why Labour could do worse than revisit Dave the Chameleon. It could resonate now.

Henry G Manson