Moving the goalposts to catch the spin ball

If the PR industry were into good works, it would provide free counselling for those about to be mugged by spin doctors. Labour peer, Lord Winston, fertility expert and critic of NHS under-funding, would have benefited enormously. Having spoken his mind about Government ’deceit’ over the NHS, he was duffed up by Alastair Campbell. He then soft-pedalled his NHS criticisms until the New Statesman, which started it all, issued a tape recording of what he had originally said. Lord Winston’s political career and reputation as a man who knows his own mind - and sticks to it - were left in ruins.

If the PR industry were into good works, it would provide free

counselling for those about to be mugged by spin doctors. Labour peer,

Lord Winston, fertility expert and critic of NHS under-funding, would

have benefited enormously. Having spoken his mind about Government

’deceit’ over the NHS, he was duffed up by Alastair Campbell. He then

soft-pedalled his NHS criticisms until the New Statesman, which started

it all, issued a tape recording of what he had originally said. Lord

Winston’s political career and reputation as a man who knows his own

mind - and sticks to it - were left in ruins.



If we were entirely public spirited, we would also form a society for

rescuing spin doctors from themselves after the Winston affair and the

Government’s U-turn on admitting Mike Tyson. Lord Neill and his

committee on standards in public life certainly did next to nothing to

help them.



Surprise, surprise, no criticism of them. Instead, Neill thinks the

Government’s special advisers, of whom Mr Campbell is one, do a good

job. Why, he even found no evidence of civil service politicisation

resulting from them.



I suspected I might have been wasting my time when I gave evidence

before him last summer when he invited a Labour peer to open the bowling

against me. Nonetheless, I asked his committee to put itself in the

position of a civil service press officer who has so far survived Tony

Blair’s Government.



First, you heard Mr Campbell telling the Government Information Service

to pull its socks up, turn itself into a political news factory and gear

itself up for 24-hour media, as if that was something new. Then you

discovered heads of information were disappearing at a rate of knots.

Within a year 25 out of the 44 top people had moved on. Only two of the

18 departmental heads of information in post when Mr Blair took over now

remain.



And all the time you found these publicly financed so-called special

advisers, who are really party hacks living cheek by jowl with ministers

with a brief to get Labour re-elected by manipulating the media, are

forever putting their oars in, trying to make you less than impartial.

You have come to experience what is described as the ’culture of blame’.

You would like to keep your job so you keep your nose clean. Any ethics

watchdog who can’t see insidious policitisation in all that should be

put down.



Lord Neill also refused to accept my point that the party, not the

taxpayer, should foot the bill for party apparatchiks employed inside

Government.



Instead, he accepts Governments should use public money to finance

privileged party political assistance, although not too much of it.

There should be a cap on numbers and a special code of practice for

them. This is the way to encourage politicisation. Add Lord Neill to the

list of those PR needs to save from themselves.



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