'PR Guru' Cameron gives out mixed radio messages

When David Cameron became Conservative Party leader a few years ago, his polished delivery and rhetoric was a breath of fresh air.

John Major, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith were grey and unconvincing by comparison and Cameron has successfully dealt with the two major challenges that faced him when he took over as leader of the opposition.

As an Old Etonian, Cameron had to convince the voters, especially the New Labour middle classes, that he was a man of the people and capable of understanding the interests and issues that face voters on a daily basis.

His second challenge was to show himself as someone of substance, not just a wit with great soundbites that a former PR guru would be expected to dish out whenever the opportunity arose. Did Cameron have policies to match his charm?

The financial downturn has given Cameron an opportunity to prove himself a viable alternative to Gordon Brown in terms of personality and policy, taking advantage of the financial meltdown and expenses scandal to score points.

I’ve not seen the odds, but I suspect Cameron is almost certain to be the next Prime Minister when Labour call an election next year.

But it is fascinating to see how easily it is for even an accomplished communicator like Cameron to let his façade slip and remind the voters how easy it is to make mistakes, however practiced you are.

Absolute Radio is a friendly station, for sure, and Cameron probably thought he was fitting in with the listeners when he relaxed and talked more colloquially during an interview yesterday.

He said people were "pissed off – sorry, I can't say that in the morning – angry with politicians", prompting some uproar that keeps the political commentators with something to discuss.

Is the word “pissed” really offensive? It’s probably the mildest of swear words, even if it is language not becoming of a potential national leader in public, and few voters would be particularly outraged.

But the Tory leader blotted his copybook when he said: "The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it – too many twits might make a twat."

Notwithstanding the use of the word “twat”, the biggest surprise in my mind, is Cameron’s dismissal of Twitter.

The social networking tool Twitter may not be to everyone’s taste, but even so, millions of people use it, including, dare it be said, US President Barack Obama.

If Cameron wants to convince the public that he is in touch with popular culture and therefore is someone they can really trust, he has to at least keep his criticisms about such matters to himself.

Twitter has enough fans that it is foolhardy to upset them, especially when such accessible forms of communication could provide a vital tool when the next election comes around – or indeed provide an opportunity to snipe at Cameron by those who champion its service.

Image matters so much in modern politics and having done so much to prove that he is not just an upper class Twit, Cameron has undone some of his good work by such a careless use of words on the airwaves.