David Cameron paid a rare visit to those hacks that lurk in the Commons press gallery for lunch today. In between cracking jokes about how ‘as you know, I have very little control over what Boris does’, and tantalising us with references to his EU speech, which is coming ‘soon’, the Prime Minister made an interesting admission about the way his government is communicating with voters about the difficulties in the economy:
‘They are not expecting miracles. I think what people hear is a rather hard, technocratic message. They are not hearing – in fact, this is our fault – they are not hearing enough about why this matters and who this is for.’
He did say that the Autumn Statement did demonstrate that the government was on voters’ side, with its measures on fuel and personal tax allowances.
But as well as attacking Labour for not being ‘engaged’ in the central issues of politics, the Prime Minister also made the claim that this coalition government is going where previous Conservative governments had feared to tread. He said:
‘Previous Conservative governments were not prepared to cap welfare, previous Conservative governments did not reform state pensions, did not reform public sector pensions.’
One really interesting point – and one those leaving the government operation repeatedly make – was about the ‘gumming up’ of the Whitehall machine. It was one of his biggest regrets, he said, that he and other ministers hadn’t spent more time looking at the process by which their radical reforms could be realised: the stakeholder consultations and equality impact assessment that slowed up the process.
And as for that EU speech, well, he’s not giving much away, other than that he doesn’t want to leave the union. Apparently, his EU policy is ‘tantric’, in that it will be even better once it finally comes. What a delightful image to help the hacks digest their lunch.