“Brring, brring. Hello, my name’s Gordon and I’d like to tell you about an exciting new way to make money. Let me take a moment of your time to make you better off. Yes, I can put real money in your pocket by my amazing new £2.7 billion pound fiscal stimulus. Are you a basic rate tax payer? Then you could be in line to make some hard cash, just give me your tax code. Do you drive a car? Well, coming soon will be my special car tax giveaway, guaranteed to put a smile back on the face of any petrol head. Perhaps you are with one of Britain’s banks? Well, in that case, billions of pounds are waiting for you to collect in my special liquidity scheme. But remember; this deal isn’t available in the shops. I’m Gordon, and thanks for your time…”
The idea of the prime minister sitting in his bunker cold-calling members of the public is clearly the image of the week. I’m not sure which is more astonishing: the fact that the prime minister apparently has time to call up to two dozen members of the public every week, some reportedly at 6.00am, or that his public relations people thought that this was a good idea to tell us about it. It was the brainchild of Brown’s new strategy and communications chief, Stephen Carter and was intended to “humanise” the prime minister.
But they missed the point about unsolicited calls, and the public’s suspicion of them. Telephone land lines are now largely the preserve of nuisance callers, telephone sales teams and political parties at election times. People increasingly use their mobiles for personal calls that matter to them. The phone is becoming slightly alien and thought of the prime minister phoning you out of the blue is simply weird.
What do you say? “Hello, prime minister, I’m so really glad you called. I was wondering whether you could explain to me why you appear to have lost the plot recently? And by the way, how can you let City bankers pay themselves £13 billion in bonuses when you’re giving them £50 billion of our money to cover their credit crunch losses ? And while we’re at it, did you really agree with Wendy Alexander over holding a referendum on independence?”
Had Brown not been so unpopular right now, with lower poll ratings this week than Michael Foot in 1983, this story might have worked. Like President Bartlett in West Wing, so moved by his correspondence that he makes a personal call to its author. However the cold-calling has come over like another of the PM’s “psychological flaws”. Don’t call us, Gordon, we’ll call you.