Danny Rogers: Transparency drive is astute and cathartic

The Government's 'transparency agenda' is already throwing up some fascinating trends and titbits.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

These range from the fact that David Cameron received a bottle of whisky worth more than £140 from Status Quo singer Francis Rossi to details of the coalition's wooing of various newspapers and broadcasters.

Revelations about Downing Street comms director Andy Coulson's various post-election dinners with former employer News International since the election have already been raked over by the (non-News Int) media. But PRWeek this week unearths more information about how government special advisers (spads) are targeting, and dining, certain media.

We learn that the Daily Mail has been the prime newspaper target for spads in recent months. This can partly be explained by the paper's circulation, which remains at more than two million each day. But moreover because the Government's comms team recognises the Mail is also the voice of 'middle Britain' - the voters who generally create long-term electoral success.

With the exception of the debacle over scrapping child benefit for higher earners - which the Mail opposed - the paper has been the standard-bearer for the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review programme, shouting the case for overall cuts in welfare spend. The Government realises that retaining public support for such deficit reduction measures - which can be achieved by keeping big circulation papers such as the Mail and The Sun onside - is absolutely crucial to its survival.

It recognises that should 'the people' turn against the austerity programme, the administration could be in a similar predicament to Margaret Thatcher's administration in 1990, when the poll tax rebellion destroyed Thatcher's mandate to govern.

Such transparency, apart from being intriguing for we media fanatics, is also healthy in a modern democracy. Government in this country is gradually becoming more open, even if it feels a hard slog sometimes.

The Cameron administration has so far made great strides in capping pay, reducing the number of spads and shining light on the workings of power.

But these are only the first steps in a long march towards transparency. Expect further revelations in the coming weeks. It is going to be an uncomfortable, but hopefully cathartic, journey for both politicians and the media.

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