David Cameron didn't want to talk to the people of Ipswich about immigration - only 'room meat'

In the age of 24-hour news, politicians avoid unchoreographed contact with the public

Share
Related Topics

Political speeches are not what they used to be. David Cameron is one of the best of today’s political performers, but if he had ever to share a platform in front of a live audience with any of the big beasts of the 1980s - a Michael Heseltine or a Michael Foot, for instance - they would have made mincemeat of him.

Talking of meat, there is a famous line from In the Loop when an MP who has been told that he must sit in silence at a public meeting exclaims: “What? You’ve got me here as room meat?”

I mean no disrespect to the good people of Ipswich who were present as the Prime Minister delivered his thoughts for the day on the perils of uncontrolled immigration, but ‘room meat’ is all they were.

David Cameron did not go to Ipswich to talk to people who live there. He went to read a speech in front of six television cameras.

After the reading, and when the applause was over, he took four questions, two from journalists, two from local people. None of the questions threw him at all, or drew forth any unexpected or memorable answer. Mr Cameron is a consummate pro, as adept as a political talking machine. You press the button, out comes the answer.

Rebecca Clearer, from Suffolk Refugee Support, asked if there was anything that could be done for asylum seekers who have been languishing in Ipswich for seven years or more, waiting to be told whether they can stay or must go. He praised the work she does, but afterwards she remarked ruefully: “I don’t think he addressed the actual problem that I was raising.”

Before she had any opportunity to express that opinion in the Prime Minister’s presence, he was thanking everyone for coming, telling them that it was a 'stunning' experience to be in Ipswich, and being whisked into a side room where the departing listeners could not bother him with any more questions. After the audience had been shown the way out, the Prime Minister and his entourage did a quick march to the cars waiting outside. Exactly 65 minutes after he had begun speaking, Mr Cameron was gone.

That was the Prime Minister, but it could have been almost any of the current big name politician. In their trade, it is important that people think that they get out of Westminster to meet the public occasionally. But that disaster that Gordon Brown suffered in Rochdale during the election, after his encounter with Mrs Gillian Duffy, stands as a warning of the dangers of unchoreographed contact with the public.

The old troopers would actually address the audience in front of them directly. The best liked to be heckled, because a good heckle followed by a sharp put down brought a meeting to life.

But in this age of rolling news, politicians dare not risk spontaneous interaction with voters. The purpose of a public meeting is not that the politician should meet the public, but that the public should be meat.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The influx of hundreds of thousands of eastern European workers has significantly altered the composition of some parts of Britain  

Immigration is the issue many in Labour fear most

Nigel Morris
The Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf heads the inquiry  

Why should Fiona Woolf be expected to remember every dinner date?

Mark Steel
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?