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It was Newsnight wot did it

December 6th, 2005


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    The fourteen minutes that changed the shape of British politics

If you want to find just how David Cameron managed to pull off his spectacular victory you need do no more than look again at the fourteen minute feature that appeared on Newsnight on BBC2 on October 3.

For it was this report of a “focus” group staged by the US pollster Frank Luntz that did more, I contend, to boost the Cameron campaign than anything else during that week in Blackpool two months ago. Received opinion has it that the 39 year old won it with his speech – but looking at the betting the big move to Cameron – from 9/1 to 5/1 – came within an hour or so of that Newsnight programme.

    Whatever you thought about Luntz’s approach suddenly the press, politicians and punters were looking at Cameron in a different way and it was this that set the scene for his famous speech.

Cameron’s team produced videos overnight and by the morning leading journalists, party officials and other opinion formers had been given a copy.

At the time I described it like this; “Those being surveyed watched videos of the five contenders with meters in their hand where they could react instantly to what they were seeing on the screen. What was being presented suggests that Cameron appears to resonate with people of all ages and political persuasions in a way that no other UK politician has done since the emergence of Tony Blair. If the young ex-Etonian does make it to the final membership ballot then there can be little doubt that he will win easily.”

The Luntz piece helped Cameron to take his party by storm. Now it is the country he has to convince and we are moving into the unknown. It is a brave punter who makes predictions.

Mike Smithson






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