Imagine for a moment the entry on Downing Street’s media grid for 19 January: our Foreign Secretary will kick things off by suggesting that we build a large and expensive bridge to France, while one of our CCHQ vice-chairs will say that young people are “puritanical” in their responses to sexual harassment and the jokes in Friends. Then another one of the vice-chairs will be revealed to have made further inflammatory posts online, their third in three days.
It isn’t quite fair to suggest that Downing Street put all that together: instead, these stories are crowding out their re-announcement of a series of dull-but-important cross-border initiatives with the French government. The good news for the government is that at least the row is crowding out stories into two damning reports into the condition of the public realm – the NHS and prisons respectively.
It is true to say that there is a sizable constituency in the country that agrees with Ben Bradley’s blogposts or Kemi Badenoch’s feelings for snowflakes. It’s just that many of the voters who agree don’t like hearing those sentiments spring from the mouth of a still-distrusted Conservative Party and the ones that do already voted for them in the past. Johnson’s bridge is probably the most dangerous as it’s yet another retreat from the principle of “sound money”, an idea that while it may be economically rickety has served the Tories well in elections past.
The government needs to get much better at filling the airwaves with stories that dispel rather than reinforce the negative perceptions and to actually tackle the growing crises in the housing market and the public realm. Instead, they just look ridiculous.