This week rounded up the public relations exercise that is party conference season, as the Lib Dems took centre stage in Glasgow. It was, by all accounts, a remarkably upbeat affair, notwithstanding the party’s widely anticipated collapse in support at the next election.
The word that kept cropping up in coverage of the conference was ‘bubble’, as it did, incidentally, last week. In the case of the Lib Dems, the rational explanation for this is the prospect that neither of the two main parties can be at all confident of outright victory, and thus there remains the very real possibility that the Lib Dems will, once again, be able to gain influence way beyond their size, even if it decreases further.
It seems that both the Tories and Lib Dems have been buoyed by recent news of the return to growth and, with it, signs that the worst of the recession may be past.
Sticking to the facts
The Lib Dems, whose credibility shattered largely around university fees, were this time so cautious about making false promises that they didn’t make any promises at all. The main policy announcement was around mental health targets, a policy planned prior to the election and arguably not really part of any manifesto.
It continued the theme of the three main parties affirming their commitment to the NHS above all and the desire to allocate new money (notwithstanding the debate about how much and how ‘new’ this is) and new targets to improve it.
Ignoring the facts
The buoyancy of the Tories and Lib Dems has been notable, in spite of the very real uncertainty over the outcome of the next election and polls putting them in second (in the case of the Tories), third or even fourth place (in the case of the Lib Dems). It seems to indicate that both parties have decided that the best policy is to talk positively and hope positive outcomes follow.
The Tories did not share the Lib Dems’ fears about making promises but went all out to tell people what they (think they) want to hear. More money for the NHS at the same time as a reduced deficit and lower taxes.
We will have to wait until next spring to see whether all the positive spin on things will be enough to carry the day or whether the two main parties are indeed ‘living in a bubble’.
From the perspective of a PR practitioner, it highlights once again, how easily the lines between reality and perspective can be blurred when the media is sufficiently swayed by the message to convey it to their readers, listeners or viewers.