Windsor or not
Yesterday Rishi Sunak and the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen stood up before an audience of journalists in a hotel in Windsor to announce an agreement aimed at solving the thorny issues of trade with Northern Ireland in the wake of Brexit.
I’m not going to analyse the detail of this deal, or whether it will fly politically. There’s enough of that in the media and elsewhere.
What interests me as a communications professional is the name it has been given: “The Windsor Framework.”
While it might sound like a firm of Berkshire picture restorers, or a minor Terrence Rattigan play, it is a title thought up by Sunak’s team (I imagine von der Leyen and co couldn’t care less) to give this deal extra heft, trying to imprint a significance that it may or may not deserve. And it is part of a pattern emerging from this administration’s spin doctors.
Let’s look at “The Windsor Framework” itself. There is little to argue with the name. It is a framework, though how robust it is remains to be seen. And it was announced in Windsor, though you wonder why they were there, other than that the European president was also visiting King Charles who happens to live in the town (which may have been premeditated, or an afterthought, though probably not a coincidence).
Better to give it that title than Brussels or Westminster, where it has been largely thrashed out. This takes the agreement away from the centres of government which seem so rarefied and remote from the ordinary working people that Sunak is trying to appeal to.
It also makes it seem important. Big deals get big names. The Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to Ulster, was named for the day it was signed. The peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) may have been signed in Washington DC but named the Oslo Accords as they were negotiated in secret in the Norwegian capital.
So The Windsor Framework seems reasonable, until you notice that just before Christmas the Chancellor announced “The Edinburgh Reforms”. These were a set of changes to financial services regulation covering everything from payments to pensions. They were thought up, polished and agreed largely in Westminster and The City of London. So why Edinburgh? Because the Scottish capital has a large financial services industry. And it is not London. But Leeds, Bristol, Manchester and Basingstoke also fit those criteria. I suspect the Edinburgh name was chosen to try and boost the Tories’ image north of the border.
A pattern seems to be emerging. Bestowing announcements with some extra importance by giving them a name, and choosing somewhere outside London to try and connect with the regions.
Will it work? I’ll tell you after The Scunthorpe Treaty is revealed.