Sunday, August 12, 2012
As you will have seen, No 10 released a shot of Cameron sitting watching Nicola Adams punch her way to Olympic gold in the boxing ring. This photo was quickly parodied and became a brief internet meme.
To my mind, the problem with the picture is that it just doesn't work as a credible story in itself. If Cameron wants to get some of the reflected golden glory or show us that he's as excited by events as the rest of the country, then this utterly failed. The first issue for me is that Cameron can't pull off the 'man of the people' schtick at all. Boris can't do it either, but his buffoonish act (and it is an act, never forget that) carries him through such PR disasters as last week's zipwire malfunction, enabling them to turn them to his political advantage. Actually, as an aside, I think that Jeremy Hunt's bell malfunction the previous week was also well handled - it wasn't a mistake on his part and he immediately apologised to the victim of his bell end, to the point where I think his public image was slightly enhanced. But back to the matter in hand - Cameron isn't like you and me. He never has been and never will be - that's just a fact of life, so trying to be something he isn't comes across immediately as false, because he simply isn't a good enough actor and the public see right through him. Accordingly, he shouldn't try to be something he isn't. The Team GB shirt is just trying too hard - is he at work or isn't he? The informality clashes visually with our received wisdom about the PM's workplace and the formality of his upright chair, his sitting position and the rest of the scene behind him. At a time when the country is sharing the event, he looks lonely.
The picture would have had more effect if he had been seen in shirtsleeves, in the office with a couple of staffers, standing watching the bout. That would have chimed far better with the message that you want to send - here's your Prime Minister, hard at work, but he's as grabbed by the narrative of the Olympics as is the rest of the country and is sharing the excitement with his team.
This might not have stopped the ridicule, but it would have been less discordant and perhaps offered a different narrative opportunity.