Given our combined decades of experience in the wider media business, it’s no surprise that this post-party conference edition of the SmallDataForum takes a close look at politicians’ media performances.
And boy is there a lot to look at.
Front and centre, of course, is the new Prime Minister and her serial car crash interviews. Neville asks serious questions about the buffering Trussbot’s media advisers. It shouldn’t come to anybody’s surprise that Jason Stein, her Director of Comms, was a media advisor to Prince Andrew until THAT Newsnight interview with now News Agent Emily Maitlis.
Despite this being fat bear week as Sam informs us, our focus is more on fat cats and those that feed and breed them. So we delve straight into the cesspit of Conservative party politics, where Sam detects a distinct whiff of the mid-Nineties, that case study of Tory self-destruction where things could only get better under fresh-faced New Labour leader, Tony Blair.
Neville senses (smells?) that we’re way beyond whiff and deep into stench territory with the present sh*t show. Sam muses that a beach front location such as Brighton or Blackpool would have been more appropriate; sewage-soiled beaches as a backdrop for trussonomic growth visions: Hieronymus Bosch as conference planner. Thomas imagines some performative immigrant boat-sinking, choreographed by daughter-of-immigrants Home Secretary, Cruella de Braverville.
Sam reminds us that the Prime Minister really bungled her Thatcher tribute act by first declaring that the lady’s not for turning in various interviews, and then do exactly that – announced by her trusted Greenwich love-thy-neighbour, economic historian and wrecking ball operator Dr Kami-Kwasi Kwarteng in his Chancellor’s speech.
Talking of speeches: so low were expectations by the time that only-weeks-into-the-job party and country leader, Liz Truss, took to the stage, a typically wooden, scripted, uninspiring performance was hailed by the party faithful as a heady blend and roast of the sermon on the mount and Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.
If only this brand of ideological politicians were a bit more intellectually curious, a bit more prone to and capable of asking smarter questions. They could do worse, much worse, than reading Sam’s very learned book on the subject. Or at least my review of it. But enough of blatant self-promotion …
Back at the Con Party conference, planners seriously underestimated the green screen capability of the blue wall behind the stage. Neville and Sam share their favourite blue screen memes, and here’s more.
From memes to mutineers, there was plenty on offer. Penny Mordaunt going against cabinet discipline, Steve Baker defending the taking of the knee, Nadine Dorries bemoaning the ever-further-right-lurch of the government, and Michael Gove giving the ‘elder statesman’. We ponder awhile about the strange alliance that’s forming within the Conservative Party. I suppose something is up when culture war generals feel the culture war is going too far …
Since all three of us ostensibly qualify for inclusion into the #antigrowthalliance that the buffering Trussbot becries in her speech – as such, we each present our silly, fact-based arguments: Neville quotes from FullFact’s critical analysis of Truss’s conference speech, while Sam recalls all the u-turns and snafus of the ‘fiscal event’. I talk about the tale of two North Sea oil riches, and how Norway ended up with one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds (making every Norwegian richer in the process), while the UK spaffed its oil wealth (which was larger than Norway’s) on tax cuts .
It all matters little. We in the ‘reality-based community’ never really grasped the deep truth of (probably) Karl Rove’s 2004 analysis that “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”
Against all of the Nasty Party’s self-inflicted pain, Labour’s reality appears rosy. Sam takes us through a range of polls that have Labour anywhere from 20 to 30-odd points ahead.
From nasty politics to the often nasty, unintended (?) consequences of social media optimising for maximum attention and stickiness.
In previous episodes, we discussed Charles Arthur’s excellent Social Warming, and when it comes to the toxic potential of social media, there are few more chilling examples than the horrendous Molly Russell case. Neville reminds us of the story in the context of a London coroner’s inquest which will lead to a safety reckoning for eternally responsibility-ducking social media firms.
We agree that this might also help drive the UK government’s Online Safety Bill, even though some experts feel it is rather inadequate in its current form.
In a note on how things might be improved on social media, Neville shares his positive experience with Twitter’s Close Friends feature. For Sam, that’s right out of Meet The Fokkers, and Jack Byrnes’ Circle of Trust.
Which brings me back to the ideological circle of Truss, that rotten stenchy core of free market ultras on which, hopefully, the Great British voters will have their say sooner rather than later. As things stand, said say might well be, in the words of M People’s over- and misquoted song:
“Move right out of here, baby, go on pack your bags.”
Listen to Episode 62: