Opinion: Govt must fight new 'spin' smear

I used to be cynical about Alastair Campbell's assertion that the biggest spinners of all were the press, but the reports of the latest figures for Government communication have proven me wrong.

Suddenly every government webmaster, editor, planner, internal comms specialist and (of course) press officer, is a spin doctor. Suddenly it's horrifying that central government - which must explain and account for hundreds of services and programmes - has a bigger comms spend than, say, Tesco.

Given the staggering number of reporters who now expect to be spoon-fed every last background detail, these complaints are the biggest contrivance of breast-beating since the remake of King Kong. But this is nothing new.Every year since the information service was set up 60 years ago, MPs and the press have accused the government of peddling publicly funded propaganda. So it is worth asking if the shiny new Government Communication Network has prepared itself for this routine onslaught.

There are four main defences. First is the level of unavoidable demand. Second is promotion of the rules against extravagance and political misuse. Third is the case for each promotional activity or campaign. And fourth is the demonstration of value for money.

Demand is easy. The outpouring of new programmes and the modern communication environment are self-evident.

Published rules are key. For years they were prominently compiled in booklets and handbooks. So why has GCN now scattered them around its website, making them far less prominent and seemingly less important?

The case for campaigns can hardly be a state secret. Each time one is approved by ministers, the case should be published. And the same goes for evaluation. Publish or be damned. But choose evaluation measures carefully.

More than one permanent secretary used to tell me that his measure for a press office was the minister's satisfaction. I hope that naïveté has passed - it is the perfect recipe for politicisation.

Mike Granatt is a partner at Luther Pendragon and a former director-general of the Government Information and Communication Service

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Latest Articles

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

Department store John Lewis is to use its 150th anniversary this year to talk about its history, which "not enough people know about", according to director of communications Peter Cross.

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

The man who helped Barack Obama win the 2008 and 2012 US presidential elections is to work for Labour along with members of his team.

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Pay-TV giant Sky has added Fever PR to its agency line-up for a wide-ranging brief covering products and services.

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

The jury in the trial of celebrity publicist Max Clifford has been sent home for Easter and will reconvene on Tuesday for further deliberations about its verdicts on 11 charges of indecent assault.

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

The Home Office has tasked Munro & Forster (M&F) with supporting its campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) as part of a wider retained brief.