With a general election just around the corner, George Osborne decided to play it safe with this year’s budget. Ignoring pressure from Tory backbenchers to dish-out pre-election sweeteners, the Chancellor instead offered restraint and a commitment to the ‘long-term economic plan’.
This budget was all about presentation – style over substance. So this week we’ve looked at the winners and losers in the budget spin-war.
‘George’s Epic Strut’
The crown for best Budget 2015 PR has to go to moneysupermarket.com, who recreated their current TV ad in honour of George Osborne for the front page of the Sun. In denim hot pants and killer heels, George’s ‘epic strut’ mirrored a confident performance at the dispatch box and a promise to see Britain ‘walking tall’ again. You’re SO money supermarket George. The Chancellor confessed to BBC Breakfast that he almost ‘spilled his coffee’ when he saw the front page, but praised the Sun’s team as ‘geniuses’.
Epic struts aside, this was a strong performance by the Chancellor. Unlike the 2012 ‘omnishambles’ budget, George Osborne was resolutely on message and focused on the people who the Tories believe could push them over the line in those key marginals – pensioners, savers, first-time buyers and northerners. As well as anyone who drives a car or drinks beer.
Westfield (and Local Dialogue)
Bradford coverage on Sky News
Westfield secured positive coverage throughout Budget Day by hosting Sky News at their Bradford site – currently under construction. With a little help from Local Dialogue, Westfield became the face of plans for a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and the coverage backed up the Chancellor’s claim that Yorkshire beats France on job creation.
Coalition for a Tax-Dodging Bill
Crystal Maze stunt
Campaigners for a ‘Tax-Dodging Bill’ got plenty of morning coverage, with the help of enormous papier-mâché heads and lots of fake cash. Alter egos of George Osborne, Ed Balls and Danny Alexander were seen wandering the green outside Parliament and doing battle in a mock-up dome, recreating the finale from classic TV game show The Crystal Maze. On budget day, it pays to be creative and to get up early.
Lib Dem alternative budget
The Chief Secretary’s decision to unveil a little yellow box backfired spectacularly on Thursday, as the Lib Dem’s ‘alternative budget’ was roundly panned on social media.
Aside from the comical yellow briefcase, and the slightly sad image of a Chief Secretary pretending to be Chancellor, the messaging was all wrong. The Lib Dems’ pitch to the electorate is that in government they have reigned the Tories in, but presenting an ‘alternative budget’ implies they didn’t really have much input into the actual budget presented to parliament the day before.
The whole affair descended into farce just seven minutes into Alexander’s speech, when Nick Clegg evacuated the Commons in the face of Opposition jeers.
One kitchen too many
Wednesday was never going to be Ed Miliband’s day – the opposition will almost always be on the defensive on Budget day, with all eyes on the Chancellor. As expected, the Tories pinched Labour’s plans reduce the tax-free saving limit for wealthy pensioners, which Miliband had earmarked for cutting university tuition fees.
Although Labour held their own on public spending levels, a well-placed jibe at Miliband’s two kitchens and some awkward repetition of ‘the thing’ left the opposition reeling in the Chancellor’s shadow.
Big events can be big opportunities to get your message out to the people who matter to you. But the media spotlight is fickle – you’ll need creativity, careful planning and a clear message to get ahead. You’ll also need to pass the common sense test and prepare your back-up strategy in case things don’t go quite to plan.