He criticised the approach that some Liberal Democrat ministers were taking to the media. His point was simply that if you invite the media to an event or interview and they turn up, then they will want a story to write about to justify their time. If you don’t give them a good enough positive story, you are inviting them to be negative. Of course, even if you give them a nice juicy positive story they may be negative, but if you don’t give them the chance to be positive then they definitely will.
The problem, Matt said, was that too often Lib Dem ministers approached interacting with the media as a risk-aversion exercise, being so anxious to avoid negatives that they ended up saying nothing very much and so securing the very negative coverage they wished to avoid.In a rather more aggressive and less ethical way, this is the lesson from controversial and then disgraced Labour spin doctor Damian McBride’s memoirs too. Always have enough stories to give the media so that you don’t force them to fill their story quotas with stories you’d rather not see.
All fairly standard advice, you might think. Also all advice the Conservatives seem to have forgotten when it came to their general election manifesto launch.
What was the positive story the party really hoped the media would take from it? Even if the dementia tax had not fallen apart so cack-handedly, there was still a shortage of good news stories that could fill the media.
Hence when asked by YouGov, look at the list of what the public remembers about the Conservative manifesto:
Those policies are all either ‘this is what the Conservatives are known for’ or ‘here is stuff you won’t like but which is good for you’. No positive alternative story in sight.