Guido Fawkes responds strongly to something of a negative profile of him in the Telegraph this morning. (Though he can’t say all that negativity is untrue, merely that it is, er, unbalanced.) He has developed an intensifying rivalry with the paper over the last week, in which the Torygraph has taken a curiously defensive line on the ‘smeargate’ debacle – most days, it has underplayed the story’s severity where every other paper has talked it up – and the profile is likely in part a response to Guido’s comments on the paper’s site. A week after the story began, the personalities still seem to be taking centre stage. This is of course how the ‘personalities’ want it.
A post on LabourHome yesterday bemoaned Labour’s lack of ‘branding’. This is getting towards the truth – Labour is suffering because it has ceased to control its own profile, to define its own destiny. The news that the former MP Alice Mahon is quitting her party is being spun by these Tory personalities as a result of the smear story, as a matter of process rather than policy. This feeds into their grand narrative, but isn’t the case (as Bob Piper has also cottoned onto today). Her resignation comes as a result of what she perceives to be real policy failures: the privatisation of Royal Mail, the lack of a Lisbon referendum, the failings of the Welfare Reform Bill. The McBride scandal was in some versions of the story the last push she needed, but to ascribe it central importance is self-serving. (“In Alice Mahon’s case she has left, not because of Labour’s policies, but because of the way the Party is conducting itself in office,” says Iain Dale, thumping his usual tub. He even labels the story a ‘defection’. Yawn.)
Alistair Campbell wrote this week about the media prism: if you’re perceived to be on the up, you’re given space; if you’re not, you’re not. If your enemies can succeed in reducing your (moral or otherwise) authority to such a low that you can no longer effect meaningful policy change in order to meet the criticism of your friendly critics, then they win the wider battle. Gordon Brown take note: the politics of personality (in which you have both chosen and been forced to take part) cannot win you the fight.
This sort of thing is much more the ticket.