David Cameron and George Osborne managed to garner more attention for their infrastructure announcement (or re-announcement) today by organising their first joint appearance alone together in four years – and making sure the media were aware that this was the case. The pair haven’t appeared together in public for a while partly because they fear doing so would suggest to voters that the government was run by two chaps from very similar backgrounds; better to dilute it by pitching up with other ministers, hopefully with vaguely different backstories.
But it is also quite impressive that the two men haven’t felt the need to do these joint appearances after questions about splits between them. That’s because those questions rarely arise, and when they do, they’re rarely valid. They have differed over policies including tax breaks for married couples, but never resorted to briefing wars.
They don’t need to do these funny launches where they pretend to get along and everyone in the audience winces. It’s often the thing that a politician is least comfortable with that they focus on the most when doing photocalls. I interviewed Mark Littlewood about his time spinning for the Lib Dems for Radio 4’s Week in Westminster recently, and he made the same point about Ming Campbell, who went to more efforts to show he was still youthful than was perhaps wise.
The relationship between Ed Miliband and Ed Balls requires more joint appearances, too, because the Shadow Chancellor hasn’t always marched in step with his boss. Most recently, Balls appeared to twist the knife a little at a briefing after the Labour leader’s poor Budget response.