Saturday, 23 February 2008

Dog Whistling Dave II

The important thing about dog whistles is that they are deniable. The whistler should be able to adopt a look of wounded innocence and declare, "I never meant it to be taken like that." So it should surprise no-one that David Cameron and the Tories are now denying he suggested that state funded trips to Auschwitz were a 'gimmick.' (1)

The line (2) being spun is that the 'gimmick' aspect referred to the Government's filure to fully fund the initiative, requiring schools to contribute part of the cost:

Their remarks came after Cameron criticised Brown during a speech in Bolton for being "obsessed with short term gimmicks". In a briefing note to explain the speech the Conservative press office listed 26 "gimmicks". Fourth on the list was trips to Auschwitz.


The Conservative leader believes the government announced a "gimmick" when it said it would provide £4.65m for the Holocaust Educational Trust's Lessons from Auschwitz programme. The Tories believe this has not lived up to its billing because schools are asked to contribute £100 towards the £350 cost of taking each pupil.

A Tory spokesman said: "School trips to Auschwitz are a brilliant idea. However, by announcing these trips without providing the necessary funding the government has - in classic fashion - hidden the detail in the small print.

"Under a Conservative government these trips would be funded in full and schools would not have to find £100 per pupil from their budgets." (3)

Where does this leave us? Good question. It could be as the Tories are suggesting. Or it might not be. The original briefing (4) makes it clear that it is the funding that is the gimmick, not the trips themselves:

4. Trips to Auschwitz

• What was announced: ‘Two pupils from every sixth form and college in the country will be able to visit Auschwitz and learn about the Holocaust thanks to £4.65 million of funding’ (DCSF press release, 4 February 2008)
• In fact schools would have to find £100 to fund every sixth-former’s trip (Times, 4 February 2008) (5)
That doesn't clear it from being a dog whistle, though it is in Cameron's favour. It is the effect of the message on the target audience that is important. We'll have to see how that develops in the nastier reaches of the internet, where sublties don't matter.

One interesting point is that the way clumsy reporting of the story may have, in effect, turned it into what it was originally described as - the original point los tunder the gibbering claims (I bow my head in shame for having contribute in my own small way) that Cameron was playing politics with the Holocaust. Trying to Brand Cameron as racist, anti-Semitic or ruthlessly power-hungry would be very desirable the more ammoral in Labour, and they might not be above fomenting a little racism in putting the idea out there. Shame on them if it is so.

1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:
2 - 'Cameron under fire for Holocaust 'gimmick' remark,' by Nicholas Watt in the Guardian, 23rd of February, 2008. (
3 - ibid.

4 - 'Brown's governemnt by gimmick,' briefing notes released by the Conservative Party, 22nd of February, 2008. (
5 - ibid.

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