Yesterday I saw for the first time the Coalition really leave behind the messaging of a coalition unified on all fronts. It was the battle of words that David Cameron and Vince Cable had yesterday that really illustrated the difficulties of keeping two fundamentally different parties on the same message and perhaps a change in the governments PR strategy.
One of the more awkward press cycles for the Coalition started with Cameron’s speech proposing a cap on immigration. Following the speech all seemed well; this was a policy agreed on by both Tory and Lib Dem members of the Coalition Cabinet…except one rather high profile member on the Lib Dem side. Vince Cable didn’t quite agree with Cameron’s policy – or at least his presentation of the policy – and of course decided to have this argument in the usual channels provided for government policy dispute…the press. Vince Speaking to Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC, Cable suggested that Cameron’s want for “good immigration, not mass immigration” was “very unwise”.
At first this seemed to be a major messaging blooper on the part of Vince Cable – he had gone off Coalition message and was now directly contrasting the Government viewpoint. Or was it Cameron’s fault for using language that was ‘too strong’ to announce the policy? At this point, you would have been forgiven for asking, where was Vince Cable’s PR keeping in tow? Or, had Cameron’s speech not gone through Coalition scrutiny for wording?
As the dust settled it seemed that both Cable and Cameron had not actually gone off messaging; they were in fact one hundred percent on message – just not Coalition message. They were on Party message. Cameron made his immigration announcement whilst visiting Southern constituency of Hampshire, a traditional Tory stronghold – but one that the Lib Dems have always been a strong challenger for. His strong rhetoric was a clear attempt at pulling moderate-Tories away from being scouted by Lib Dems and back into the party bosom. Cable, on the other hand, was illustrating that there is a difference between the Parties and that voters will not be voting for the Coalition but two separate set of ideologies.
Yesterday’s upheaval came not long after Clegg was caught on tape saying to Cameron, “If we keep doing this we won’t find anything to bloody disagree on in the bloody TV debate”. Clearly at this point the Party head’s were worrying that the messaging of Coalition unity was blurring the messaging of the separate Party’s values. Perhaps Clegg’s words then and Cable’s today signified a new era in the Coalition. Since it’s formation it has been screaming as loud as it can about being ‘unified’. Perhaps now, as council elections approach, Party allegiances are returning and the messaging is moving to one of ‘separate Parties working together’ rather than ‘one government’.