Shapps and Pickles: Never Knowingly Underquoted

There’s no doubt about it - the coalition’s housing politicos do good PR. Or should that be, they do A LOT of PR?

In May alone, despite the Bank Holidays, there were 29 press releases from the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Of those, Grant Shapps - who also uses Twitter very effectively to let people know when he will be on TV and radio shows to publicise initiatives (although not always ahead of appearances to defend policy) - was the lead politician quoted in nine of those DCLG press releases in May.

His boss Eric Pickles - notionally, at least, more senior than Shapps as he is in the Cabinet - was the lead politician quoted in another nine departmental releases in May.

By contrast, these were some other coalition departmental press releases in May:

- Treasury: 7 (of which two had Chancellor George Osborne as the lead politician quoted);

- Justice: 24 (of which four had Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke as the lead);

- Education: 14 (of which six had Education Secretary Michael Gove as the lead).

I could go on. You get the point.

On the one hand, the PR offensive by the DCLG (much more extensive than almost any other government department) shows that it is a unit on the move, with business and initiatives to announce - although hardly more active than, say, the Treasury or the departments of Justice or Education, I would have thought.

On the other hand, the determination of Grant Shapps and Eric Pickles (the former still tipped for promotion) to personally dominate and be identified with the activities of their department carries a risk: if those policies do not deliver, the politicians arguably receive the flack more rapidly.

Gordon Brown made a name for himself by announcing initiatives several times. People quickly saw through that and the tactic backfired.

Shapps and Pickles are not there yet (although they have had many press releases trying to launch and then explain the New Homes Bonus since they came to office). But they do need to be seen to deliver, and rapidly, if the large sums and amount of time they spend on their personal promotion is not to backfire, too.

In other words, those who live by the PR sword may just die from it, too.

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