The Government’s PR machine has been roundly criticised, and rightly so, for the way it responded to the story of Culture Secretary Maria Miller and her expenses.
The Daily Telegraph, which first broke the story, has claimed that Government press officers made telephone threats to them. Telling journalists to drop the story – or else! – is a tactic which rarely works. Not only is it unethical, it’s also a sign of weakness; a clear indication that you’ve lost the argument.
The main impact of the story is that it once again leaves the public with the impression that the political class consider themselves entitled to behave as they like. I find it interesting to note that the three politicians who actually do seem to connect well with the public, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Alex Salmond are not members of the Westminster parliament. Indeed Farage in particular has always stressed that fact that he doesn’t want to be thought of as a career politician.
So, what can our political parties do to improve their public image? Part of the problem is that our political leaders all benefited from a very privileged upbringing, each of the three main party leaders is the Oxbridge educated son of a multi millionaire.
It seems to me that the best long term solution would be for all mainstream political parties to make a concentrated effort to attract candidates from a wider range of backgrounds. We need more high profile working class politicians, as well as more women and more people from BME communities.
In the meantime, perhaps the lesson for the Number10 press office from the Maria Miller affair should be that there is little to be gained from attempting to defend the indefensible?