a weekly blog for all interested in professional communications issues

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Summer politics recasting Iggy

Michael Ignatieff must be wondering if he should spend more time outside of Ottawa.

When Parliament rose for the summer, Iggy was badly bruised by a critical media and the Tories were making steady advances in the polls. Even his much-touted barbecue tour had a lousy beginning when the bus broke down on the highway outside Ottawa and had to be repaired at a place called Harper's Garage.

You could almost hear the guffaws coming from Parliament Hill.

But as Iggy winds down the summer tour, things have changed dramatically on the federal scene.

The Tories are trending downward in the polls. Much attention is being devoted to their bone-headed decision to get rid of the mandatory long-form census. Even the management ability of the Prime Minister's Office is an issue.

The Tories have been nice enough to change the channel in the media away from Iggy's problems to their own.

As a result, nice things have started to crop up in the media about Iggy.

Has the Liberal leader changed dramatically since the summer began?

Hardly. Political journalists like to have a common narrative or news frame to provide a backdrop to their daily stories. The life span of these frames can last for months until a major development -- like a sudden drop in the polls -- alters perceptions of the political landscape.

Of course, Iggy and the Liberals have received a big boost from the census controversy and the fact that Prime Minister Harper made himself scarce for most of the summer.

Even the fact that expectations were so low for Iggy's barbecue tour has worked to the Liberals' advantage. There were no disasters beyond the bus breaking down; therefore the tour is being reported as a success.

Watch for a new media narrative of Iggy and the Liberals closing the gap with the Tories.

As a former member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, I can tell you that the media enjoy playing God with the politicians. Build them up for a few months (or years, as they did with Paul Martin) and then tear them down. In Iggy's case, the media started with tearing him down. Now they will likely build him up and tear Harper down.

The media love a good horse race, always.

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