To say the media coverage of David Cameron’s speech has been positive would be an understatement – look at the front pages arrayed above, and it’s clear that he very nearly secured a clean sweep. Okay, so the Star plumped for a “pub cursed by black eyed child ghost”, but you can’t control everything.
It’s quite an achievement. As everyone keeps saying, most people don’t watch leaders’ speeches at party conferences – but huge numbers do read the papers, or at minimum browse the headlines when they’re doing their shopping.
Added to the headlines is a series of endorsements from the leader columns. For the Mail it was “the speech of his life”; The Times thought it his “most effective speech” ever; The Sun found it “commanding”; and the Express declared Cameron “spoke for all Daily Express readers”. From a centre right press which has often given him tough criticism (and in the case of the Express explicitly backed UKIP) those are warm words indeed.
Compare and contrast that reception with last week’s round-up of how the newspaper front pages received Ed Miliband’s speech:
Not only are the personality and policy battle lines being drawn for the election, but behind the scenes there’s a huge amount of work wooing the media. It’s evidently paying off – aside from Sunday, most days of the conference saw the Conservatives’ preferred messages landing on the front pages.
I suspect the sheer threat of a Miliband government, prone to forget the deficit but always happy to talk about its intention to create new taxes, is a powerful weapon in winning the papers over. As we often remind readers, with no boundary reform and the impact of UKIP the election is going to be a tough one – but if the Prime Minister can keep the media on side then it will be of major help.