This Sunday, viewers will be treated to the sight of a pot alleging
that a kettle is blackening the Northern Ireland peace process. In an
interview with Jonathan Dimbleby due to be broadcast by LWT, Senator
George Mitchell questions the strategies of Downing Street’s press
spokesman and accuses the Government of serial ’leaking and spinning’ in
a bid to manipulate public opinion over Northern Ireland.
Admittedly, the success of the peace process has at various times been
overstated by both Alastair Campbell and Mo Mowlam, but doesn’t every
Government official seek, by default, to present policies or events in
the most positive light? Surely Senator Mitchell, coming as he does from
the land that invented spin, could not be so naive as to believe that
every congressman, senator, or press spokesman would not be tempted to
do the same given the soul destroying nature of the Irish challenge? His
evident distaste for a process of presentation which this Government
borrowed, after all, from its US political counterparts, indicates a
conveniently short memory.
In addition, while the Northern Ireland Office appears, as suggested by
Mitchell, to have been responsible for a number of leaks, these have
chiefly been detrimental to Labour’s own position. While the Irish have,
in turn, assiduously briefed and ’spun’ in order to set the public
agenda prior to every Anglo-Irish conference. For the peace process to
be finally derailed by partisan presentation would truly be a travesty,
but to suggest that the whole process can take place in a vacuum devoid
of spin is unrealistic idealism.