FloCam to the rescue

When in trouble there are a few things a Prime Minister or a President of a country can do, with a little bit of luck. If it is US President Barack Obama, he can ensure that a dangerous terrorist is picked out in Pakistan, killed and buried quietly at sea;

and if it is UK Prime Minister David Cameron, he could try to win a war in an oil-rich state and swiftly access the country’s resources. Both these leaders have suffered seriously failing ratings, and Mr Cameron, especially, has come under a lot of criticism after the terrible riots in London. He has been forced to take a hard line on the breakdown of law and order, promising harsh punishments to the culprits. Till the fall of Tripoli he has also had to face flak over the Libyan war, and now the phone-hacking scandal threatens to bite him again. It was, no doubt, time for him to pull out a charm offensive and see if the public could warm up to him.
Thus Mr Cameron has now unleashed his secret weapon — it is a tiny blonde bundle and happens to be affectionately dubbed FloCam. Her photograph has been on the front page of every newspaper this week, and her red lips and saucy blue eyes have made her quite a hit with the public.
Actually her full name is Florence Rose Endellion Cameron and her proud parents took her back to the Royal Cornwall Hospital, in Truro, where she was born where she could meet the doctors and nurses who helped in her safe passage into this world.
FloCam has made her father’s worst critics lose their bile: right from the day she was born she has given photographers and journalists a steady wide-eyed look, which completely bowls them over. Thus, recently her rare appearance enabled the Camerons to overcome a few unhappy moments of questioning over Mr Cameron’s ill-advised holiday while London burnt and even about the proposed NHS reforms. This is not the first time that a UK Prime Minister’s family has come in rather handy in distracting everyone by providing attractive front-page fodder, nor will it be the last.
Cynics say that both family happiness and grief have been occasionally used by Mr Cameron and other premiers such as Gordon Brown and Tony Blair to win sympathy votes — and why not? Whilst in India, we can still see that there is enormous respect for the privacy of the political class, in Britain there are few limits. On the one hand, not only does the press intrude on privacy, sometimes there are careful spin-doctored reports on the part of the politicians as well. So far, the only taboos had been the children, but even that barrier seems to be falling down. Things began to change a decade ago, in Mr Blair’s time. Mr Blair, like John F. Kennedy perhaps, wanted to promote the image of the young, virile politician with a growing youthful family. It is these little “personal” interventions, apparently that make politicians much more human and bring them closer to their constituents.
Thus, while someone like Gordon Brown had resisted his two sons being photographed whilst he was chancellor and Prime Minister, he could not help speaking tearfully about his daughter Jennifer who died shortly after birth. This was a subject on which journalists knew they could get an emotional reaction and it made Mr Brown appear less formidable. Mr Cameron, too, has sometimes spoken about the death of his son who had special needs, and these conversations have also given an insight into him.
Thus, some would say the appearance of the stoic and cheery FloCam was much needed. Her intense blue-eyed gaze has kept the media in thrall for a while, but it does raise the question whether Mr Cameron should exercise restraint in exposing his family in the media? Especially since deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has shown no inclination of allowing his three sons to appear before the camera.

Privacy has also been an issue uppermost in the media mind in India in the last few weeks after the reported illness of Sonia Gandhi. What is interesting is that while international media would have felt no restraint upon them, there has been very little about the state of her health even in the UK papers. Of course, requests may have gone out to all concerned that Mrs Gandhi’s privacy should not be disturbed.
However, spin doctors would argue that if occasionally politicians allow a glimpse of their private lives it can prove extremely helpful. Not only does it attract empathy, it removes the distance between the politicians and the public… just look at how wonderfully FloCam has helped her father!

Kishwar Desai can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com

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