David Cameron talks of transparency and honesty, being upfront about the scale of the challenge. About collective responsibility and facing up to our legacy and what we need to do for ourselves and future generations. About winners and losers, but action that will be felt by all, in every household. About tough choices and government taking a lead, with no one too senior to be exempt and leaders and senior staff taking hits too. About the future, and freedom and and a better, more attractive life.
And this narrative is being religiously adhered to across government. It is the mantra we hear when meeting Secretaries of State. It will be channelled through every single government department and agency from the national to the local level. And it will be reflected in the action we see around us, in the papers, on the TV. It is, and will remain, the stuff of debate and discussion.
And what are they talking about? No big surprise here, the narrative is for the economy and the dizzyingly high debt that the Conservative government is facing. But for one second you could be fooled into thinking we were portraying the action needed on climate change.
And this narrative is not just one we will hear about, we will feel their words, in the schools that can’t get new sports halls, in the architects that lose their jobs, in the civil servants that join the job centre queues. Yet the way we have been presented with this challenge will make us feel that this was the only way, that government had no choice, it was taking the responsible route before things got too bad. And yes it will be hard. But we will be travelling to a future that is far more attractive, a “big society” (not small government) where we help each other and know our neighbours and this pain will help us get there.
So government can do it. It can make a challenge so enormous feel achievable with strong leadership. And it can talk about something so unattractive and unpalatable that it could result in action at the ballot box and power full steam ahead, knowing we have no choice as a society. It can cross departmental divisions and silo and get all departments working with a core goal in their midst.
The Conservative coalition government can be a master story-teller. It has understood what its cousins in the States, the Republicans, have known for years: that language and stories affect how people respond to an issue. It’s how you deliver the lines, on all levels.
Isn’t it about time we had such a strong, consistent and considered narrative on climate change?