Judge and Jury: It takes two to tangle the web of spin coming out of No 10 - Critics of the world of spin doctoring who have predicted the death of spin in the wake of last week’s Whelan leak are jumping the gun, says Jon Aarons, managing director

Most PR Week readers are familiar with the tradition of shooting the messenger. But there can be few practitioners of our art who have been rained upon by more assassins than the Chancellor’s press adviser Charlie Whelan. With Tarantino-like subtlety, he has been gleefully pumped with hot metal from all directions.

Most PR Week readers are familiar with the tradition of shooting

the messenger. But there can be few practitioners of our art who have

been rained upon by more assassins than the Chancellor’s press adviser

Charlie Whelan. With Tarantino-like subtlety, he has been gleefully

pumped with hot metal from all directions.



But it’s too soon to be dancing on the grave of any Government media

handlers. It now appears that last week’s hysteria had its origins in

the over-eager response of a reporter who took his eye off the ball.

That had nothing to do with new-tech spin doctoring - it was a much more

old-fashioned phenomenon.



This Government has thus far managed the media more effectively than its

predecessors, thereby reducing the ability of journalists to spin their

own political yarns. There is a delicious irony in seeing the press

complain about spin doctoring when they were quite happy to be ’spun’ on a

daily basis by Labour in opposition.



So, what are the lessons from this dizzying tale?



One view gathering momentum (or at least being ’spun’ by ’sources close

to’ the Prime Minister) is that the Government should move to briefing ’on

the record’.



I can’t believe British political reporters would be willing to go down

the US road, with soft focus White House-style press conferences. What

turns the lascivious lobby journalist on is the thrill of the chase. Of

course, it is normally the traditional ’off the record’ lobby system which

provides the scoop. We corporate spin doctors should be wary of knocking

our political colleagues. Our discipline is at centre stage, our profile

raised by the Whitehall ’sultans of spin’, although the focus on clear and

consistent messages hardly extends to EMU policy any more than it did

under the Conservatives. That explains why the financial markets can be so

easily panicked by the merest whiff of a policy.



Professional management of the Government’s communication is here to stay.

Journalists who have become lazy and over-dependent on spin doctors should

hopefully have learned their lesson from one colleague’s misfortune.



However, it may be too much to hope that City high-rollers will learn

not to believe everything they read.



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