Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Living in the age of PR

Are we living in the information age? The age of austerity? The age of endarkment? A moral stone age? Definitely no to this last one. I propose that we’re actually living in the age of press relations, where as long as what you’re saying sounds good, policy and substance won’t be scrutinised by the electorate.

It’s happened before when Cameron said pre-May 5 that the Tories were the party of the ‘great ignored’ (That sounds great, David, but what does it actually mean?) And it happened again today, when the Chancellor George Osborne talked about creating a ‘fairer society’ whilst making public sector cuts.

I believe the primary purpose for Osborne using ‘fairer society’ was to make people think his proposals are a means to create something good. Although there is no unbiased definition of what a ‘fairer society’ is, its weakness is that it’s generally agreed to be a good thing. So by equating cuts with ‘fairer society’, if you’re not sure whether the cuts are a bad thing, it will create ‘a fairer society’, a good thing, so they can’t be all that bad can they?

Well, it depends what you mean by ‘fairer society’ and how you get there. What Osborne meant by a ‘fairer society’ today was that which has its finances in order and does not force the next generation to pay the debts of this generation. Well again, that sounds great George, but how are you going to do that? Answer: by cutting public sector spending on policies that will hit the poorest and disadvantaged in society the hardest (reported on this blog ). We already talk about the ‘lost generation’, so I’d rather we concentrate on making sure the current generation has employment opportunities and can afford an education.

For me, the Tories’ cuts will create the antithesis of what I consider a ‘fairer society’, so it’s only when you look at the policy do you realise you’re not talking about the same good idea of a ‘fairer society’. A warning that this phrase and similar 'buzz concepts' such as 'progressive' and 'social justice' should not be taken at face value.

If I ever hear someone on a vox pop saying “yeah, I think it's a good idea because it’ll create a fairer society’. the Conservatives' job will be done, and I'll be moving to Antarctica to live amongst the Emperor penguins.

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