by Ray Fleming

It was Margaret Thatcher who first acknowledged that the BBC Radio 4 Today programme “sets the political agenda for the day”.
I always understood her to mean that John Humphrys and company set the agenda for listeners, not that it told Downing Street what it should be doing. Things change, however.

Someone called Oliver Dowden, who is David Cameron's deputy chief of staff overseeing domestic policy issues, recently told an interviewer in the United States that “The first thing I do in the morning, is to turn on the Today programme and hear what's going on.” (He should be at Downing Street by 7am, not still in bed.)
He said he was “often surprised” by the news agenda.
If there are other people like Mr Dowden in No 10 it is not difficult to see why David Cameron is finding it so difficult to project his policies to the public.

In his Sunday Times column Martin Ivens showed how several positive policy initiatives and good economic news in the past week had been obscured by incompetent handling, crossed wires and inability to make quick decisions -- in one case by Mr Cameron himself.

There is an urgent need for a very senior civil servant or a media-aware minister to take over responsibility for day-to-day communications at No 10 and to set the agenda instead of being surprised by it.

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