This is how the Downing Street spin machine works: a Bad Story that may make your core vote very upset appears in the papers. You brief that you are doing something Very Serious in response to said Bad Story and hope that when it comes to the meeting where you have to raise said Very Serious measure, the media will be getting worked up about a will or the latest pronouncement by a leading light in Ukip about women in the workplace. Today’s example of this rule is the briefing to The Times that Downing street wants to put ‘curbing the right of EU migrants to benefits at the heart of impending discussions with Brussels aimed at winning back powers for Britain’. This followed yesterday’s story about a rise in the number of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants working in the UK.
Now in one sense this isn’t a bad idea, as Angela Merkel has been making some very encouraging noises about EU reform. If David Cameron were to secure stricter rules on welfare for migrants, he could use it as an early example of how well he could steer overall renegotiation talks. But there’s also a risk that in regularly briefing after some bad headlines that you want to repatriate certain powers, you end up releasing a shopping list of powers in dribs and drabs. A shopping list is something the Prime Minister clearly does not want to make public, and nor is it in his interests to make such a list public, as he could then be judged a failure even if he does return with what he considers a reasonable settlement that doesn’t tick every box. He should be wary of letting the media draw one up for him based on a trickle of briefings.Tags: Angela Merkel, Bulgarian and Romanian migrants, David Cameron, Europe, Immigration, UK politics, Welfare