Farewell (for now) Steve Hilton

Farewell (for now) Steve Hilton

Steve Hilton is heading off to sunny California for a year’s sabbatical, and the country is left to wonder whether his boss’s political fortunes will take a dive.

Hilton has had a massive impact on Cameron’s fortunes. Andrew Rawnsley, writing in yesterday’s Observer, credits him with “inventing Dave” – or at least Dave’s public persona – and when I met Hilton in 2006, shortly after Cameron became Tory leader, he was full of counter-intuitive ideas with which to de-toxify the Conservative brand.  It’s work in progress, but the fact that Cameron’s in Downing Street shows that the project has been pretty successful. 

So what’s the catch? Quite simply, it’s The Big Society (TBS). The Tories didn’t need it. In the autumn of 2009, they were strolling towards an overall majority in the general election. All they needed to do was to play safe. Then along came TBS, and it all started to go wrong.

TBS fails three main tests of a good media message:

  1. It needs translation. Unlike Tony Blair’s brilliant “For the many, not the few” and Obama’s “Yes we can!”, it requires a battery of sub-clauses before it starts to make any sense. Ask ten people what TBS means and you’ll get ten difference answers.
  2. It’s about means rather than ends.
  3. The cleverness in its name (the contrast with Big Government) is only appreciated by policy wonks. To everyone else, it just sounds weird.

Now that Hilton’s gone, perhaps the Tories can quietly mothball TBS, and hope that he’s forgotten all about it when he returns.

Article date

March 5th, 2012

Robert Taylor

Media Trainer

@RT_MediaTrainer

My main passion is media training, and I’m proud to be one of the UK’s most experienced and successful trainers in this field.

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