This week’s big question: Should Government press officers merge roles with spin doctors?

A row over briefings by the Chancellor’s press adviser has prompted a review of the lobby system

A row over briefings by the Chancellor’s press adviser has prompted

a review of the lobby system



BEN RICH, LUTHER PENDRAGON



’The system will sort itself out. Labour is discovering there are things

you can do in Opposition that you can’t do in Government. Charlie Whelan

and one or two others will get their fingers burnt, but to say you could

only have attributable briefings is crass. Journalists always want the

inside line on stories so if they don’t get stories from special

advisers they’ll find them from elsewhere.’



JONATHAN HASLAM, DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT



’Government Information Service (GIS) and special adviser roles are

separate and distinct, and should stay so. The GIS is the bedrock for

fact. Special advisers - if they have a media inclination - can explain

the political context. The current system of lobby briefings is likely

to evolve further. I always regarded those I gave as virtually on the

record. Ministers should be the personalities - they are accountable to

Parliament.’



HOWELL JAMES, BROWN LLOYD JAMES



’Large Government departments produce a huge amount of information. Lots

of it never goes near ministers and special advisers, who only involve

themselves in the most high profile, headline-grabbing material.

Information officers in Government departments need to continue their

job of providing facts and detailed information about Department

activities. Special advisers do have a role in giving the political

dimension to stories that civil servants cannot but that needs to work

alongside the official machine - not in its place.’



ROMOLA CHRISTOPHERSON, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH



’I think they are separate, but complementary roles. A productive

relationship can produce a whole impact that is greater than the sum of

the parts. Whatever form of on-the-record briefing you introduce, in the

real world people will still want to talk behind the bike sheds.’



SIMON LEWIS, CENTRICA



’There is a distinction between policy advice and party political

advice. But I do think we should be moving more in the direction of the

US system where there is a less artificial distinction between the civil

service and special advisers. On-the-record briefings would make elected

politicians more accountable to the media, which is a good thing.’



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