Site menu:

Site search

Get Updates

Enter your email address to hear about new posts. (You can view my privacy policy here.)


RSS Recent Posts

Archives (month)


Who’s optimistic now?

“You were the future once …”

When David Cameron famously made that remark on his first encounter with Tony Blair across the despatch box, he employed a very effective communication device. This week, Ed Miliband tried the same trick (“Mr Cameron, you were an optimist once”). It was clearly intended to have the same effect – if not a bigger one. The words “hoist” and “Cameron’s petard” must have been bandied excitedly around the new leader’s drafting table when some bright spark came up with the idea.

But it hardly registered at all. Why not? Lots of reasons, actually …

One of the most powerful selling techniques is to make everyone think something without ever actually saying it

When Cameron used the phrase, he wasn’t just making a statement about Blair having his future behind him. Cameron was also planting in our minds the idea that he – David Cameron, newly elected leader of the opposition – was now our future. It was two statements rolled into one.

But not so for Miliband. The words “You were an optimist once” came after a series of attacks on the government, a government with almost five years left to run. Ed Miliband clearly isn’t optimistic about the immediate future. The double meaning simply wasn’t there.

Miliband then claimed, several times in the closing of his speech, that he (and Labour) are now the optimists in politics. In doing so, he saddled himself with a claim that can be used against him in the exchanges to come. Cameron, by contrast, had never actually claimed to be the future. He had planted the idea in our minds without ever using the phrase about himself. One of the most powerful selling techniques is to make a statement which leaves everyone thinking something warm and exciting about the product, without the salesman ever actually making the claim.

See also:  How cool is necrophilia, Judge?

As I write this, David Miliband has just announced his withdrawal – for the time being at least – from front line politics. Famously, he was the Miliband once. If Ed doesn’t acquire some better communications advice, he might not be the Miliband for long.

Sign up for updates by Email, Twitter or RSS Feed.

Related articles on this website
I keep hearing that last Friday's agreement between the UK and the EU 27 means that a hard Brexit is off the table. Well, I'm looking at the table and ...
Read the complete article
The morning after the Newsnight before, everyone is asking why did he do it? And how will it work? Find the answer the second question and I think you have ...
Read the complete article
It seems that, when it comes to Brexit, we can’t trust anyone to get their facts right. Not even lawyers. At least, not Lawyers for a People’s Vote (LfaPV). I don’t ...
Read the complete article
Yesterday, the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps led the daily Downing Street press conference with news of new transport infrastructure to help us in the current crisis and beyond. But the ...
Read the complete article
On a day when I am learning it may be OK to eat red meat after all, I’m also having to re-think my attitude to the BBC. I am delighted that ...
Read the complete article
We all know that Harry Redknapp is innocent of tax evasion. A jury has decided that unanimously. But readers of The Times newspaper may have been a little surprised by the ...
Read the complete article
Like many people, I thought parts of 2016 had been something of a nightmare. It had been so unbelievable at times that, when I woke up on 1 January, a ...
Read the complete article
I’m not sure quite how to say this. So I’ll say it twice:Yesterday, a young graduate won her claim against the government’s back-to-work scheme. She argued that the regulations and ...
Read the complete article
Hard Brexit is dead. Long live … hard Brexit
DC taking a leaf out of DC?
Lawyers for Alternative Facts?
Is this the way to maintain public faith in the lockdown?
I’m partial to a bit of Beeb
Redknapp admits his guilt?
Is that you, Bobby?
Journalists in a tiz at Supreme Court’s win-win decision