Thursday, 31 March 2011
Have PR and spin undermined trust in politics?
Is PR responsible for the lack of trust in politics? A debate discussing the motion “PR and spin have undermined trust in politics” was held few weeks ago at University of Westminster. Kevin Maguire, political editor of the Daily Mirror, and Sheila Gunn, spokesperson for John Major spoke for the motion while Lance Price, former Labour ‘spin doctor’ and Francis Ingham, Chief Executive of the PRCA were debating against it.
One of the reasons pointed out for the motion was that political PR professionals were in control of the information flow which gave them the power to establish the agenda of political conversations. Spin doctors refused to speak to journalists who asked hard and complex questions or had different opinion about a given subject. As a result the political focus of the news has shifted toward the convenient side stories which aimed to keep the audience engaged without providing it with precise and valuable information about the important issues concerning it. Political PR practitioners were accused for trying to divert the public attention away from the actual problems in the political system and issues concerning the government in power.
Lance Price, speaking against the motion, argued that the power to enhance or destroy politicians’ reputation is in their own hands. Even the most experienced spin doctor would struggle to gain public support for a candidate who is not popular or respected amongst the electorate. Trust in politics is measured by the success of the political activities and the ability of the politicians to keep their pre - election promises. The public perceptions are also affected by the desire of the media to provide its audience with sensational news about the political life in the country and the media rivalry which stem from the emerging of the twenty- four hour coverage.
Many aspects of the political process should be considered in order to understand which factors have played a major role in shaping the public opinion about politics. Political PR professionals have part in the process of losing trust in politics, but they are just the tip of the iceberg of a much more complex social issue.